The Czech Republic pulled off a dramatic win over China in the World Baseball Classic Thursday night and immediately became the darlings of the tournament. The 8-5 win likely secured the Czechs auto-qualification for the 2026 tournament and they are still alive for a berth in the knockout rounds.
China led the Czechs 5-4 heading into the top of the ninth inning. Martin Muzik came up to the plate with runners and second and third and one out. This is what he did next:
Muzik's go-ahead homer is more impressive considering he played at Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina, then went undrafted and never played minor league ball. Other than some time in the Czech Baseball Extraliga, he hasn't played anywhere. That was quite a moment for him.
Look how much this meant to the people in the stands:
The Czechs tacked on another run in the ninth and wound up winning 8-5 in a serious upset over China.
While most teams in the tournament feature MLB players, the Czechs only have one guy with big league experience. Journeyman infielder Eric Sogard is on the squad and he hasn't played in MLB since 2021. There are a few minor leaguers on the team, some college players and some guys who play in the Czech Republic but also have day jobs.
The fact that the Czech are even here is pretty crazy. In their opening game of qualifying they were mercy-ruled 21-7 by Spain. But they weaved their way through the losers bracket, taking down France and Germany to earn a rematch with Spain. This time, they won 3-1.
The pitcher who won that game for the Czechs -- Martin Schneider -- works as a firefighter. He's a combo shortstop/relief pitcher in this tournament, though.
It's hard not to love these guys.
The Czech Republic will face Japan on Saturday at the Tokyo Dome in what should be a major mismatch. But hey, it beats fighting fires.