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USA Collegiate Team defeats Wilmington Sharks 7-4

FROM USA BASEBALL RELEASEWILMINGTON, N.C. — Kris Bryant (San Diego) hit a two-run home run in the first inning and five pitchers combined to strike out 12 as the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team cruised to a 7-4 win over the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League in front of 2,733 on Tuesday night at Buck Hardee Field.

“It was a good day today,” manager Dave Serrano said. “I thought Adam Plutko did a great job of setting the tone, throwing strike one and getting quick outs. We put some runs up early and that helped the pitching. We were able to bring some guys out of the bullpen to get some work and get their feet wet, so it was a good day today.”

In addition to Bryant’s longball, the first of the summer for Team USA, D.J. Peterson (New Mexico) drove in two runs for the second straight game. Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) also added a 2-for-3 effort with an RBI single, a walk and a stolen base.

“My biggest things was just to stay relaxed today, put good wood on the ball and not try to do anything special,” Gonzales said. “I caught a couple good fastballs and had a good day.”

Just like Monday night in Fayetteville, the Collegiate National Team struck early with three runs in the game’s first frame. After leading off the contest with a four-pitch walk, Trea Turner (NC State) moved up to third on another free pass and a double-play ball before scoring on a wild pitch.

Jordan Hankins (Austin Peay) extended the inning with the third walk issued by the Wilmington starter, setting up Bryant’s opposite-field blast over the wall in right-center.

With a 3-0 lead before even stepping foot on the field, Team USA starter Adam Plutko was tremendous in his first appearance of the summer, striking out five and allowing just one hit in four shutout innings.

Because Plutko was only slated for four innings of work, Johnathon Crawford (Florida) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief. Bobby Wahl (Mississippi) was also strong out of the bullpen, striking out all three batters he faced, needing just 12 pitches to do so.

“We’re trying to get a feel for the pitching and get them in the flow,” Serrano said. “We’re still trying to feel ourselves through and get used to each other, but I like the way things are coming together right now.”

The red, white and blue pushed its lead to six after Peterson stroked a bases-loaded, two-out single to right to bring two runs in in the fifth and Gonzales brought Michael Lorenzen (Cal State Fullerton) in from second with a single through the left side in the sixth.

Although the Sharks got on the scoreboard with a two-spot in the next inning, the Collegiate National Team tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Austin Cousino (Kentucky) notched an RBI with a sacrifice fly to put the U.S. ahead, 7-2.

That proved to be a good idea, as Grayson Atwood belted a two-run shot in the home half of the ninth to cut the lead to three. Dan Child (Oregon State) escaped without any further damage, however, inducing a groundball to short to end the game.

The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will close out its three-game tour of the Coastal Plain League on Wednesday when it travels to the Crystal Coast for a 7 p.m. contest against the Morehead City Marlins at Puck O’Neal Field at Big Rock Stadium. Carlos Rodon (NC State) is scheduled to start that game, while Crawford will get the nod on Thursday in Cary, N.C., against the Catawba Valley Stars.

Gonzales will then toe the rubber on Friday in the first Stars vs. Stripes game in the Prospect Classic and Ryne Stanek (Arkansas) will take the hill in the second game of that series on Saturday.