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USA defeats Japan 4-1 to open up Honkbal Tourney

HAARLEM — Starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) struck out 10 in seven strong innings and combined with David Berg (UCLA) to retire the final 19 batters of the game as the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team defeated Japan, 4-1, in its opening game of the Haarlem Honkbal Week on Saturday at Pim Mulier Stadium.

“Marco really got us started on a good note,” Team USA manager Dave Serrano said. “We played good defense, Marco pitched extremely well for seven innings and then David Berg came in and did what he does. It was a wonderful atmosphere, the fans really get into the game. I hope we are playing in the last game when this place is rocking.”

Gonzales allowed just one run on three hits and two walks to pick up the win and Berg then twirled the final two innings, fanning two batters to record the save.

“They did a good job of throwing strike one, cross-counting and keeping them off-balance,” Serrano said. “Japan kind of guesses a little bit at the plate and I thought our pitchers did a good job of keeping the ball down for the most part.”

Offensively, Team USA’s best weapon was the leadoff walk as it drew three such free passes and made them all count, scoring each time. Trea Turner (North Carolina State) walked three times and scored twice, while Michael Conforto (Oregon State) went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.

The U.S. squad took advantage of free passes to start both the first and third innings to plate its first two runs of the game. In both cases, Turner drew a four-pitch walk before coming around to score.

After reaching to start the bottom of the first, Turner put his speed on full display, swiping second before coming around the final 180 feet to score on a check-swing infield single by Conforto.

Japan tied the game with a solo home run by Yoshiki Eto in the top of the third but Turner once again use his speed to put the Red, White and Blue back on top. He drew another four-pitch leadoff walk to reach base and Johnny Field (Arizona) moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Turner then stole third, his second stolen base of the game, and scored on a sac fly by Conforto.

After the home run by Eto, Gonzales yielded a single to the very next batter before settling in to retire the final 13 batters he faced, striking out five of them, and finish with seven strong innings of work to his name. Berg then came out of the bullpen to sit down the final six hitters of the contest.

With Gonzales rolling on the mound, Team USA continued to apply the pressure offensively pushing across runs in both the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, it was a leadoff hit by pitch that got things rolling as Trevino took one off his leg. Although he would be thrown out at the plate on a single by Brett Hambright (Oregon) two batters later, Hambright was able to advance to second on the throw. Kyle Farmer (Georgia) then traded places with him, ripping a double down the left-field line.

The following frame, Field was issued a leadoff walk, moved to third on a single by Conforto and scored on a groundout to short by Kris Bryant (San Diego) to put the tally on the scoreboard at 4-1.

From there, it was all Gonzales and Berg as they completely shut the Japanese offense down, not allowing even a single baserunner over the final 6.1 innings.

Team USA will continue pool play against on a familiar foe in Cuba at 7 p.m. on Sunday before squaring off with Puerto Rico, Taiwan and the Netherlands over the next three days. Medal-round games are set to begin on Friday, July 20.

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