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USA Baseball Tournament of Stars Semifinal Round Recap

CARY, North Carolina — Following semifinal medal-round victories that were punctuated by a nearly 3.5-hour rain delay, NABF and undefeated Dixie will meet June 22 for the gold medal of the 16th Annual USA Baseball Tournament of Stars presented by Major League Baseball.

The eight-team tournament, which showcases 144 of the nation’s elite age 18-and-under high school and college athletes, concludes June 22 with the medal games and consolation-round play at Thomas Brooks Park at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

Donavan Tate (OF; Cartersville, Ga.) provided the game’s only run with a fourth inning leadoff homer to power Dixie (4-0) — the lone remaining unbeaten team— to a 1-0 victory against AABC in a game that was delayed 3 hours and 27 minutes by rain after the top half of the first inning. Meanwhile, Ethan Bright (INF; Batesville, Miss.) and Patrick Blair (INF; Baltimore, Md.) each notched two-RBI base hits in a decisive five-run third inning as NABF (3-1) topped PONY 6-2 in the other medal round semifinal contest. In the two remaining June 21 games, Matthew Purke (LHP; Spring, Texas) tossed four-hit ball over seven innings as the USA Stars blanked RBI 5-0 while four Babe Ruth pitchers combined on a five-hitter in a 7-0 shutout of the American Legion.

Besides the gold-medal affair, three other games are scheduled for June 22. RBI (0-4) will meet the American Legion (1-3) for seventh place at 10 a.m. (Eastern time). In the fifth place game, the USA Stars (2-2) will face Babe Ruth (2-2) at 1 p.m. The bronze-medal contest at noon pits PONY (2-2) and AABC (2-2).

Tate snapped a scoreless contest with his homer to left field, his second roundtripper of the tournament. Dixie pitchers Matthew Graham (RHP; Springfield, Texas), Zach Lee (RHP; McKinney, Texas) and Colton Cain (LHP; Waxahachie, Texas) made that run stand up as the trio limited AABC to five hits while striking out 14 and issuing just one walk. Lee fanned seven in his three-inning stint while Cain whiffed the side in the ninth to close out the contest, which was played in just 1 hour and 57 minutes. AABC hurlers Wes Hatton (RHP; Norco, Calif.) and Josh Turley (LHP; Texarkana, Texas) permitted just three hits and combined for 13 strikeouts with no walks. Turley fanned seven in four innings of hitless relief. Both tournament losses for AABC, which was seeking its fifth straight appearance in the gold-medal game, have been 1-0 setbacks.

NABF managed just five hits but bunched three of those hits along with a pair of walks and an NABF error during its big third inning. Bright’s two-run double broke open a scoreless game and Blair’s two-run single finished the five-run explosion. Ryan Curl (OF; Gahanna, Ohio) added a one-out solo homer an inning later to boost NABF to a 6-0 cushion. PONY scored runs on two-out RBI hits by Corey Thompson (INF; Apex, N.C.) in the eighth and Mitch Haniger (OF; Santa Clara, Calif.) in the ninth inning. Andrew Aplin (OF; Suisun City, Calif.) registered two of PONY’s seven hits. NABF pitchers Aaron Northcraft (RHP; Newport Beach, Calif.) and Tyler Spurlin (RHP; The Woodlands, Texas) combined to allow just three hits over six scoreless innings.

Purke struck out nine and issued one walk, firing 66 strikes in an 88-pitch outing. The Stars tallied two unearned runs in the third inning on two RBI errors and just one hit to tally the only runs they would need. Eric Brady (INF; Cary, N.C.) and Bo Reeder (UT; Cookeville, Tenn.) each scored twice for the defending champion Stars. RBI finished with four hits and left nine base runners stranded, including a pair in each of the final three innings.

Babe Ruth hurlers James Needy (RHP; Santee, Calif.), Kyle McKenzie (RHP; Canton, Mass.), Aaron Wirsch (LHP; Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) and Christopher Jenkins (RHP; Westfield, N.J.) teamed up to stifle the American Legion bats. The Legion did not manage a hit over the final five innings with both Wirsch and Jenkins tossing two innings of hitless relief. Babe Ruth pushed across two runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to build a 6-0 cushion. Clay Cederquist (INF; Fresno, Calif.) notched two hits and drove in a run for Babe Ruth. Jeff Malm (INF; Las Vegas, Nev.) garnered two hits, including a double and a triple, while Ashton Beckwith (INF-OF; Crawford, Miss.) also collected two hits for the Legion.

The Tournament of Stars serves as part of the player selection process for the USA Baseball 18U National Team, which competes annually in international competition. At the conclusion of the tournament, 32 players will be invited to participate in the 18U National Team Trials, which will be conducted July 10-17 in Phoenix, Ariz. From that group, the 2008 18U National Team final 18-player roster will be chosen.

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