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Team USA defeats Morehead City 6-1

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. – Carlos Rodon (NC State) struck out seven in four innings and combined with four other pitchers on a three-hitter as the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team beat the Morehead City Marlins, 6-1, with 2,117 fans on hand at Puck O’Neill Field at Big Rock Stadium on a picture-perfect Wednesday evening.

“We’re happy with the win, but as a coaching staff we aren’t happy with the performance of the team,” Team USA manager Dave Serrano said. “There might be some elements that are causing that – we’ve been on the road three straight days in different hotels – but we have to get used to that.

“We didn’t play great baseball, we didn’t play great defense, didn’t take great at-bats, but we played well enough to come out on top, 6-1. The end result is the most important but we have to continue to build as a team as the days dwindle until we leave the country.”

Rodon held the Marlins off the scoreboard through his four innings of work, allowing just two balls out of the infield. The Holly Springs, N.C., native was effective, but found himself in trouble in both the second and third innings due to free passes before wiggling out of both jams.

In the second, Rodon got two quick outs before a hit batter and back-to-back walks quickly loaded the bases. He was able to buckle down though, getting the next batter swinging to end the frame. An inning later, the Marlins used a double and a fielding error to put a runner on third with just one out, only to see Rodon induce a groundout back to the mound and notch another punchout to leave him stranded there.

Making his first start of the 2012 Team USA campaign, Rodon finished with seven strikeouts, four walks, one hit batter and just one hit allowed in four innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen.

“He wasn’t as good as he can be tonight, but his stuff is explosive,” Serrano said. “He threw some balls that showed why he is so highly thought of as a freshman. He had a great slider at times and showed flashes of a great fastball. We just need to get him in the zone more consistently.

“It was his first time in a USA uniform and it’s easy to forget, because he is such a physical specimen, that he is only a freshman. We’ll get him calmed down and, hopefully, back on track like he was most of the season for NC State.”

The red, white and blue got a long solo home run from D.J. Peterson (New Mexico) in the third inning, but little else before it decided it was done waiting for something to happen and began to force the action in the top of the fifth, tacking two more runs on to its tally in the process.

With a runner on first and two outs, Michael Lorenzen (Cal State Fullerton) perfectly executed a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners. The U.S. then put a delayed steal on at first as ball four came in to Peterson at the plate.

Although Lorenzen was already going to be awarded second due to the free pass, his hustle drew a throw to the bag, allowing the speedy Trea Turner (NC State) to steal home. On that same play, the throw to the plate skipped to the backstop moving Lorenzen up to third before a fielding error allowed him to score to make it 3-0 in favor of the U.S.

Morehead City threatened to respond in the home half of the inning, using three straight two-out walks to load the bases. Team USA reliever Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) came out of the bullpen to thwart the comeback attempt, however, dropping a filthy 3-2 changeup on the outside corner to Matt Anderson to strand all three runners.

Team USA broke the game open in the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits with Peterson and Kris Bryant (San Diego) both delivering RBI singles in the stanza.

The top three batters in the U.S. lineup scored two runs each to account for all six of the team’s tallies. Peterson hit his first home run of the summer and knocked in two runs for the third time in three games to make him the team’s early RBI leader with six.

Morehead City scored its only run of the game in the bottom of the eighth when a pair of errors on one play, a walk and some missed communication on a flyball to shallow right allowed a run to cross the plate. Tommy Thorpe (Oregon) kept the damage to a minimum though, striking out back-to-back batters to end the inning. David Berg (UCLA) then pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off the game.

The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will return to Cary, N.C., on Thursday for a 6:05 p.m. contest against the Catawba Valley All Stars at the National Training Complex. Johnathon Crawford (Florida) will get the nod on the mound.

On Friday, Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) will toe the rubber for 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.

Oregon catcher Brett Hambright has been added to the 22-man USA Baseball Collegiate National Team roster after South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner declined his invitation to the squad following the Gamecocks’ extended stay at the College World Series.

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