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Team USA edges Chinese Taipei

(BRNO, Czech Republic) – Hunter Morris (Auburn; Huntsville, Ala.) blasted the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the 11th over the wall in right-center as the USA Baseball National Team defeated the Chinese-Taipei National Team 3-2 in the final FISU World Championships pool-play game for both teams Thursday at Mestsky Stadium. Team USA concludes FISU pool play 6-0 and will be the top seed in this weekend’s tournament portion of the World Championships. The U.S. team also improved to 22-0 on its 2008 summer tour.

It was the lone hit on the day for Morris, who was 0-for-3 with a walk in four previous plate appearances. Morris’ home run came with two outs and was Team USA’s first hit since a Scott Woodward (Coastal Carolina; Markle, Ind.) two-out single in the seventh. Taipei pitchers had retired 11 consecutive U.S. batters prior to Morris’ homer.

The game was a classic pitchers’ duel as each team had only four hits on the day. Taipei pitchers issued five walks and recorded seven strikeouts, while U.S. pitchers struck out four with only one walk.

Team USA took the game’s first lead in the bottom of the fifth on Woodward’s RBI single to left-center; it was the first hit of the game for the U.S. team. Blake Smith (California; Modesto, Calif.) doubled down the right-field line with one out in the sixth and later scored on a Taipei error.

That lead stood until the eighth, when Taipei tied the game with a pair of runs on a walk and two hits. Te-Lung Siun plated the first run on a single to center and moved to second on the attempt to get the runner at the plate. That proved costly as Chih-Hsiang Lin followed with a single through the right side, scoring Te-Lung.

Smith nearly ended the game with a two-out, walk-off homer of his own in the bottom of the 10th. However, Taipei right fielder Mis-Szu Chen caught the ball with his glove just above the wall in right-center.

Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma State; Lubbock, Texas) earned the victory in relief. Despite a blown save in the eighth, Lyons held Taipei scoreless on one hit with two strikeouts over 3.1 innings. Starter Mike Leake allowed only a first-inning leadoff single with two strikeouts over 6.0 scoreless innings; he used just 60 pitches. A.J. Griffin (San Diego; El Cajon, Calif.) worked 1.2 innings and surrendered two runs on two hits and one walk.

Ko-Chien Lin took the loss in relief for Taipei. Morris’ homer was the only hit he allowed over 4.0 innings; he walked one and struck out two. Starter Tsung-Hsuan Tseng pitched 3.0 scoreless innings with one walk and one strikeout.

Woodward produced the only multiple-hit game for Team USA, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases.

Team USA returns to action Saturday, facing a yet-to-be-determined opponent in the first of two semifinal games. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 a.m. EDT at Mestsky Stadium.

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