FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
PHOENIX, Ariz. – A seven-run second inning helped the USA Baseball 18U National Team overcome an early four-run deficit and the squad rolled to an 11-8 seven-inning victory July 19 against a group of local junior college all-stars in an exhibition contest played at Municipal Stadium, spring training home of the Oakland Athletics.
The game was the second of two exhibition contests between the two. The 18U Team, composed of 18 players ages 18 and under from across the country, also knocked off the all-stars 5-1 July 18. The July19 contest ended a three-day training period for the National Team following the announcement of the squad’s final roster July 16.
The 18U Team will now depart July 20 for Okotoks, Canada, where it will compete in a four-game exhibition series July 21-23. The contests will be the final tuneups before the squad participates in the International BAseball Federation’s “AAA” World Junior Championships July 25-Aug. 3 in Edmonton. The USA Baseball 18U National Team participates in two major events in bi-yearly cycles – the COPABE Pan Am Championships and the IBAF World Championships. The Pan Ams serve as a qualifier for the ensuing year’s World Championships. Team USA earned a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan Ams in Ixtapa, Mexico, to secure a berth in this year’s Worlds.
The squad will open exhibition play in Okotoks at 4:05 p.m. (EDT) July 21 against Chinese Taipei. The Americans will then meet the Okotoks Dawgs at 9:05 p.m. July 22 before finishing the series with a doubleheader July 23. Team USA will tangle with Canada at 2 p.m. followed by a 5 p.m. return matchup against Chinese Taipei.
“This team has an opportunity to be really good,” 18U National Team Head Coach Mark Elkins said. “But at the same time, we need to continue to improve every day and make the most of our time together before the start of the World Championships.”
Against the all-stars, Team USA fell behind 4-0 after a four-run first inning by the all-stars. A pair of 18U Team errors, combined with three hits by the local squad, led to the early uprising against Team USA starter Ryan Weber (RHP; St. Petersburg, Fla.). Two of the four runs were unearned. But the 18U National Team rebounded in its next at bat, sending 12 hitters to the plate to erupt for seven runs on seven hits. Nick Franklin (INF; Longwood, Fla.) ignited the big inning with a two-run double. Wes Hattton (OF; Norco, Calif.) notched a two-run single while Nolan Fontana (INF; Winter Garden, Fla.) and Harold Martinez (INF; Miami, Fla.) also had run-scoring hits.
Team USA added a pair of runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings, capping a blitz of 11 unanswered runs, to take an 11-4 lead. Martinez and Jeff Malm (INF; Las Vegas, Nev.) each stroked RBI doubles in the fourth while Donavan Tate (OF; Cartersville, Ga.) came off the bench to line a two-run double in the fifth.
The all-stars would not go away easily, though, adding a run in the sixth inning and then three more in the bottom of the seventh off Franklin, the sixth 18U Team hurler. The all-stars had the tying run at the plate when Franklin got the final out of the game on a strikeout, one of 11 on the day for Team USA pitchers who yielded 11 hits.
“We had a tough time closing them (the all-stars) out,” Elkins said. “That’s something that we need to do a better job of in the future. Going into the Worlds, it’s also important that we cut down on our number of mistakes,” added Elkins about his squad which finished with four fielding errors.
Team USA displayed a balanced offense with five players – Tate, Martinez, Malm, Franklin and David Nick (INF; Cypress, Calif.) – collecting two hits apiece in a 14-hit attack. Four players – Tate, Martinez, Nick and Hatton – each drove in a pair of runs.
The USA Baseball 18U National Team is a perennial power on the international baseball scene. Only once in the 23-year history of the IBAF “AAA” World Junior Championships has the United States failed to capture a medal. During this time, the 18U Team – the defending silver medalist from the 2006 event- has earned five gold medals, 10 silver medals and seven bronze medals in World Championship competition.