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Team USA wins Gold Medal game over Cuba

(HAARLEM, Netherlands) – Jared Clark’s leadoff home run in the top of the sixth broke a 1-1 tie, and Kendal Volz (Baylor; Bulverde, Texas) notched his fifth save of the tournament as the USA Baseball National Team defeated Cuba 4-1 Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the 24th Haarlem Baseball Week at Pim Mullier Stadium. Team USA improved to 14-0 on the 2008 tour with the win and finished 7-0 in the Haarlem Baseball Week.

The team fielded by Cuba for Haarlem Baseball Week was the same roster minus one player from Cuba’s 2006 silver-medal World Baseball Classic and 2004 gold-medal Athens Olympic Games teams. It also is the same team that will compete in the Games of the 29th Olympiad next month in Beijing.

Sunday’s victory marked the first time in recorded history that a United States Collegiate National Team has defeated the Cuba Olympic Team in a tournament title game. Furthermore, it was Team USA’s second win over Cuba in an eight-day span after a 1-0 victory last Sunday.

“What this team has accomplished is amazing,” USA Baseball National Team head coach Rob Walton said. “These players may not realize the significance of this victory right now, but this was a big win. To beat a team with the history of success that Cuba has is something of which these guys should be proud.”

In both victories over Cuba at Haarlem Baseball Week, the U.S. pitching dominated the game. And in both games, Mike Minor (Vanderbilt; Chapel Hill, Tenn.) and Volz earned the win and save, respectively. The U.S. pitching staff held Cuba to no earned runs on 10 hits with 16 strikeouts over 18.0 innings on the week.

Sunday, Minor allowed one unearned run on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts over 6.0 innings. Four of Minor’s six strikeouts came consecutively against the final two batters of the first inning and the first two batters of the second inning.

“Winning an international competition and doing it against Cuba’s best team is an historic accomplish,” USA Baseball National Team general manager Eric Campbell said. “It really shows the quality of the college game in America. I’m happy for these players and this coaching staff, and I’m proud to put these men in USA Baseball uniforms.”

A two-out error allowed Cuba to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. With runners at first and second, Alfredo Despaigne lined a single to left. It was hit so sharply that the runner from second did not round third; however, U.S. left fielder Josh Fellhauer (Cal State Fullerton; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) misplayed the ball, allowing the run to score.

That lead did not last long as Team USA got out of the inning on the very next pitch when first baseman Clark made a diving snag on a line drive in foul territory for the third out. Blake Smith (California; Modesto, Calif.) led off the top of the fifth with a solo home run, tying the game. After fouling off three two-strike pitches, Smith connected on a 2-2 curveball; it hit the top of the right-field wall and caromed over the wall for a home run.

Clark (Cal State Fullerton; Castaic, Calif.), who joined the National Team last Friday, blasted a 2-0 fastball well over the wall in left-center to open the top of the sixth. That gave Team USA a lead it would never relinquish.

Cuba threatened in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners at first and second with one out thanks to a walk and a single. Kyle Gibson (Missouri; Greenfield, Ind.) entered the game and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. However, Gibson and Team USA got out of the inning unscathed on a second-to-short-to-first double play.

Team USA added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech; Parma, Ohio) had a pinch-hit single to open the inning, and pinch-runner Scott Woodward (Coastal Carolina; Markle, Ind.) beat out a throw to second on Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Both runners advanced one base on a wild pitch, and Cuba intentionally walked Micah Gibbs (LSU: Pflugerville, Texas) to load the bases. Matt den Dekker grounded to first on the next pitch, but Cuba first baseman Yoandy Garlobo’s throw home was awry and two runs scored.

Volz pitched a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save in as many chances on the 2008 tour; Volz recorded a save in five of Team USA’s seven victories at Haarlem Baseball Week.

Cuba starter Adiel Palma did not factor in the decision. He allowed one run on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 4.2 innings. Reliever Vicyohandri Odelin took the loss, allowing three runs, one earned, on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 3.2 innings.

Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton; Corona, Calif.), Mike Leake (Arizona State; Fallbrook, Calif.) and den Dekker all had two-hit games. Smith scored twice.

Monday is a travel day for the USA Baseball National Team, going to Regensburg, Germany. Team USA returns to action Tuesday against the German National Team. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Haarlemse Honkbalweek

  • Brian and I were discussing on what was happening in the bottom of the 8th- Cuba had the bases loaded and 1 out and I told Brian, Double play right here to get out of this inning. Sure enough a very nice Double play(Brian was actually watching it on video when it Happen).

    Hopefully Brian can go into detail on the double play that I called!

  • Chris Hernandez left the game with Bases loaded with Kyle Gibson coming into the game. The Cuban player hit a slow roller to second baseman Ryan Jackson. As I am watching this, No chance to get a double play here. Jackson tosses the ball to Christian Colon who tossed the ball to first with a runner on top of him to get the runner at first by a half a step and keep the 2-1 lead.

    It was a great double play. I have a request in with the Haarlem baseball people to get the video of the final out. We will see what happens.

  • Incredibly happy for the team and Mikie in particular after a tough Sophomore year. I’m hoping his career rounds out just like David Price’s (great 1st year, mediocre second year with great TUSA summers bookending that… oh and a stellar junior year).

    I believe Minor was named Most Outstanding Pitcher for the tourney.

    And I guess they did save him for the final after all, Brian.

  • Wait..Did I predict that? I don’t recall if I said they should have not SHOWN him against Cuba in the first go around and then used him in the final. They did both.

    This is a great win for USA Baseball and actually believe this is bigger then the 2000 Olympic victory over Cuba. The guys on the Cuban team will be in Beijing next month while the USA kids will be preparing for the College school year.

  • Is the Olympic team on the same site as The National Team??

  • Interesting article on Yahoo today about the Olympic Team which is announced on Wednesday.

    The article is available by clicking on the link below.;_ylt=AtUc0LVZvi7vnypp0TgBXG8RvLYF?slug=jp-olyfuturesbbl071308&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

    The Olympic team will have some big name prospects that have been connected to college baseball in the last few years. I know Vandy’s Casey Weathers is expected to be on the team.

    Here is the website for the Olympic Team.

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