The World Baseball Classic returned this month after a six-year gap since the last iteration. And the event’s absence has robbed the baseball viewing world of unforgettable moments like the one that took place on Monday in the Dominican Republic’s 6–1 win over Nicaragua.
Though the final score does not indicate much in the way of dramatic conclusions, it wasn’t until the top of the ninth inning when the game’s most pivotal sequence unfolded. That’s when Nicaragua pitcher Duque Hebbert—who’s listed at 5’10” and 170 pounds—took the mound against the teeth of the D.R.’s lineup. And what transpired was a wholly unexpected result that drastically altered Hebbert’s future.
The 21-year-old started the inning by striking out Juan Soto on three pitches. He then fanned Julio Rodríguez, and after allowing a two-out double to Manny Machado, he capped the dazzling frame by striking out Rafael Devers.
That’s four All-Stars, three punch-outs and one inning for the ages.
The performance caught the attention of everybody in attendance but in particular a scout for the Tigers, who was so impressed that he signed Hebbert to a minor-league contract shortly after the game. Not bad for a player who has never played
Hebbert’s hardest pitch of the inning clocked in at 89.9 miles per hour, so his style can certainly be described as throwback and not fitting the modern-day reliever mold of overpowering velocity. But he likely won’t face as stiff a test as he did against Monday’s quartet of superstar sluggers, which bodes well for his future as a newly-minted professional baseball player.