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18U National Team remains unbeaten at IBAF Worlds


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EDMONTON, Alberta – Jeff Malm (INF; Las Vegas, Nev.) slapped a two-run, bases-loaded single to ignite a five-run fifth inning and Ryan Weber (RHP; St. Petersburg, Fla.) fashioned a five-hit complete-game performance to lead the USA Baseball 18U National Team to a 7-0 quarterfinal win against Puerto Rico today at the International Baseball Federation’s AAA World Junior Championships. The tournament, featuring the world’s top 18-and-under players from 12 countries, continues Aug. 2 with medal round semifinals. Medal games are set for Aug. 3.

The win keeps Team USA as the only unbeaten team in the tournament (6-0) and propels the Americans into the medal round semifinals where the USA will meet Australia at 7 pm. Aug. 2 at Telus Field. Australia (4-2) earned a spot among the final four teams by knocking off host country Canada 2-1 tonight. The USA-Australia contest will be a rematch of the teams’ July 26 pool-play contest won by Team USA 5-1.

“It’s a great feeling to be in the medal round,” USA Head Coach Mark Elkins said. “That’s why you put on the uniform— to play for a chance at the gold medal. Quarterfinal games are very nerve wracking. If you don’t win, you don’t get a shot at a medal. When you are here, you must remember that you have to win one game at a time.”

Team USA started slowly against Puerto Rico (3-3), which upset Cuba on the opening day of the tournament. Entering the home half of the fifth inning, the USA led just 1-0. That one-run advantage came on a third-inning RBI single off the bat of Nick Franklin (OF; Longwood, Fla.). Franklin drove in David Nick (INF; Cypress, Calif.) who had led off with a single and then stole second base.

But the game quickly changed, thanks to the Americans’ big fifth inning. With one out, Puerto Rico starter Ryan Gonzalez (1-1) issued three consecutive walks to Andrew Aplin (OF; Suisun City, Calif.), Nolan Fontana (INF; Winter Garden, Fla.) and Franklin. Malm then followed with his two-run single down the right field line, scoring Aplin and Fontana with Franklin moving to third base.

“I was looking for a pitch to drive somewhere to get a run in and not hit into a double play,” said Malm, who is now hitting .550 with 10 RBIs for the tournament to lead USA regulars in both categories. “He (Gonzalez) threw me an off-speed pitch that I was able to pull down the line.”

After Harold Martinez (INF; Miami, Fla.) drew the fourth walk of the inning from Gonzalez, Austin Maddox (DH; Jacksonville, Fla.) rapped a run-scoring single to send home Franklin and send Malm to third. Malm crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Donavan Tate (OF; Cartersville, Ga.) to end the uprising.

“Things weren’t going our way early on but Ryan was able to shut the door on them and give us a chance to score some runs,” added Malm, who was also a member of the 2007 USA Baseball 18U National Team.

Weber picked up his second tournament win after allowing an unearned run in eight innings in the USA’s opening-game win against Australia. The right-hander permitted five hits, all singles, and issued one walk.

“Ryan wasn’t as sharp today as he was against Australia,” Elkins said. “He didn’t have his best stuff but he kept our team in the game. He got stronger as the game went on.”

Weber has not surrendered an earned run in 17 innings on the mound. His shutout, the third of the Worlds for Team USA, lowered the staff earned run average to 1.26, the best mark in the championship. The USA has now allowed 32 hits and seven earned runs in 50 innings.

The Americans added a final run in the seventh. After Fontana notched a leadoff single and Malm was hit by a pitch, Maddox drove in his second run of the day with a run-scoring single to right field. The USA finished with eight hits and is now hitting .352, tops in the tournament.

“We need to take one game at a time,” Malm said. “We want to get to the gold medal game and have set our goal to win a gold medal.”

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