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18U National Team blanks Mexico at IBAF Worlds


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ST. ALBERT, Alberta – Matthew Purke (LHP; Spring, Texas) twirled a complete-game four-hitter, retiring 21 of the final 22 batters he faced, as the USA Baseball 18U National Team blanked Mexico 2-0 today in Day 5 of pool play at the International Baseball Federation’s AAA World Junior Championships. The tournament, featuring the world’s top 18-and-under players from 12 countries, will conclude Aug. 3.

The victory for Team USA (4-0) sets up a showdown July 30 for the top spot in the final day of pool play. The Americans, the defending silver medalist, will meet defending world champion Korea (4-0) at 9:05 p.m. (EDT) at Telus Field with the winner to earn the No. 1 seed from the teams’ six-team pool for championship quarterfinal play Aug. 1. Korea remained unbeaten also after dispatching of Russia 17-1 in a seven-inning run-rule game today.

The USA-Korea affair will be a rematch of the 2006 World Championship title contest when Korea rallied from a 3-2 eighth-inning deficit with a pair of runs, including the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth, to defeat the USA 4-3 for the gold medal in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba.

The Mexico shutout marked the second consecutive game in which Team USA has blanked its opponent following the Americans’ 25-0 whitewash of Russia July 28. USA pitchers have not allowed a run in the last 17 innings and the Americans’ staff has allowed 21 hits and five earned runs in 32 innings pitched for a 1.41 earned run average.

Purke (1-0) permitted only one base runner to reach third base in his route-going gem. Mexico (1-3) reached him for a pair of hits to start the second inning. But a strikeout and a groundout left runners stranded on second and third to end the frame. After surrendering a leadoff single in the third inning, the lefthander set down 16 consecutive batters until allowing an infield single with one out in the eighth.

“We found out that our team doesn’t need to score 25 runs to win,” Purke said. “We showed that we can play and win close games. We made all the defensive plays we needed and scored the runs necessary to win.”

For Purke, the performance helped him atone a pool-play loss to Mexico a year ago in the COPABE Pan Am Junior Championships in Ixtapa, Mexico, as a member of the 2007 USA Baseball 18U National Team.

“That game definitely came to mind,” said Purke in reference to the USA’s 8-7 Pan Am setback to last year’s host country. “I saw this as an opportunity to avenge that loss. I was focused and wanted to take control against them. I had all my pitches today so I knew it was going to be a good day.”

Purke’s nine-inning outing matched the 18U Team’s single-game mark for innings pitched in a Worlds game. He joins Rick Ankiel (vs. Korea ,1997) and Ryan Drese (vs. Chinese Taipei, 1994) who also had nine-inning stints.

“Matthew performed as well as I have ever seen him pitch,” Team USA Head Coach Mark Elkins said. “He completely dominated the game. He threw strike after strike and kept Mexico hitters off balance all game. He certainly made the most of his opportunity to pitch against Mexico again.”

After erupting for 21 hits in its one-sided win against Russia, Team USA’s offense managed just six hits and drew seven walks in scoring two early runs— both by leadoff hitter Nolan Fontana (INF; Winter Garden, Fla.).

The Americans’ took a 1-0 lead by scoring an unearned run in their first at bat. Fontana opened the home half of the first inning by working a walk — his first of four in the game— off Mexico starter Alejandro Barraza. Fontana moved to second on an infield single by Nick Franklin (OF; Longwood, Fla.) then advanced to third on a fielder’s choice grounder by Harold Martinez (INF; Miami, Fla.). After Barraza issued a two-out base on balls to Austin Maddox (DH; Jacksonville, Fla.), Fontana scored when Mexico catcher Luis Juarez threw wildly to first base trying to pick off Maddox.

The USA’s other run came in the third inning when a one-out double to center by Jeff Malm (INF; Las Vegas, Nev.) knocked in Fontana, who reached on his second walk and then moved up a base on Franklin’s grounder.

Fontana’s four walks established an 18U National Team single-game record for Worlds competition, bettering the previous mark of three matched most recently by Victor Sanchez against Italy in 2006.

“Scoring runs were hard to come by today,” Elkins said. “But the name of the game is to have one more run than the other team after the 27th out is recorded. Despite not scoring a lot of runs, I thought our players did a good job of keeping pressure all day long on Mexico. Not everything went our way offensively but our team played with enthusiasm on every single play.”

  • Matthew Purke is a name to remember. He has the stuff to be the #1 draft pick next June and he also has the Whose Who of College Baseball after him as well.

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