Rizzo helps Italy into second round


(Photo by Barry Gossage/Getty Images)

Anthony Rizzo is going to be away from Cubs Spring Training camp a little longer than most anticipated.

The slugging first baseman is representing the Italian squad in the 2013 version of the World Baseball Classic, a tournament which has seen the European country fend off favorites Mexico and Canada to reach the second round. And Rizzo, who has hit in the heart of the order for the Azzurri, has played a key role in his squad’s success.

In the opening matchup against Mexico on Thursday, the 23-year-old finished the day 2-for-5 with two RBI, accounting for the game-tying and winning runs. Trailing by a run with men on first and third in the top of the ninth, Rizzo hit a soaring fly ball to left field, which looked like a sacrifice fly. But Mexican outfielder Edgar Gonzalez lost the ball in the afternoon sun, and it bounced off his glove, scoring both runners and ultimately giving Italy the 6-5 win.

The Italian squad crushed Canada 14-4 on Friday, and though Rizzo didn’t have a hit, his impact was still felt. The first baseman finished 0-for-3 with a pair of walks. He got the scoring started in the bottom of the first when he grounded out with a man on third. He also scored two runs as the Italians clinched their trip to the next round.

On Saturday, Rizzo’s team jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the USA, but was ultimately overmatched by an American side some have favored to win the tournament. Rizzo had a single in the 6-2 loss.

Italy begins play in the double-elimination second round on Tuesday against the Dominican Republic.

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