After the two teams traded zeroes for seven innings, Kyle Farmer (Georgia) and Johnny Field (Arizona) broke a scoreless tie with RBI doubles in the bottom of the eighth as Team USA shut out Chinese Taipei, 2-0, on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon at Pim Mulier Stadium.
With the win, the U.S. improved to 3-1 in pool play during Honkbal Week and clinched a berth in the medal rounds later this week.
Despite suffering the tough-luck loss, Lin Kuo finished with 7.1 innings pitched, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out nine for Chinese Taipei.
“The pitcher we saw today was by the far the best we have seen on our tour,” Team USA manager Dave Serrano said. “I’m very proud of our guys for gutting out a win. We just grinded it out for eight innings until Farmer got a breaking ball up in the zone, one of the few pitches their guy missed, and hit a double off the wall to score the first run.”
Just seven minutes after the first pitch of the contest was thrown, steady rain forced the game into a rain delay that lasted nearly an hour. The U.S. squad wasn’t going to sit on its hands though, taking the opportunity to entertain the 3,500 in attendance with comedy rather than sport.
After a solo performance as “upside-down man” by David Berg (UCLA) got the show started, the team mocked up a number of other events, including bowling, wrestling, hunting and even a wedding before the Chinese Taipei squad joined in to participate in a couple of dance numbers, as well as short jousting and sumo wrestling competitions, much to the delight of the crowd.
“I thought it was great for the crowd that sat through the rain,” Serrano said. “We have a great group of guys who like to have fun and have really bonded together over the last three-and-a-half weeks. It’s sad that our time together is coming to an end, but we hope to end it with a memory that we will all share forever.”
After the rain delay, neither team was able to accomplish much offensively through the first seven frames. The only time either team managed to put two runners on base in the same inning was in the top of the first as Chinese Taipei drew a pair of two-out walks in driving rain just before the game was delayed.
Prior to Farmer’s big double, U.S. starting pitcher Adam Plutko (UCLA) and reliever Jake Reed (Oregon) had combined to hurl seven shutout innings, with Plutko going four hitless frames with four strikeouts before Reed’s three scoreless.
Reed would proceed to get the first out of the eighth as well before a walk ended his outing. With Michael Lorenzen (Cal State Fullerton) on the mound, Chinese Taipei was able to draw two more walks to load the bases with two outs before a strikeout ended the threat.
The very next stanza, Team USA accomplished what Chinese Taipei had not been able to do – push across a run.
Austin Cousino (Kentucky) was issued a leadoff walk and Brett Hambright (Oregon) dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him into scoring position for Farmer who turned on an 0-1 pitch and one-hopped the wall in left to drive in the first run of the game. Just two batters later, Field would follow suit, taking a double the other way to trade places with Farmer and tack on an insurance run.
Berg then came in to close out the game on the mound, striking out two and inducing a groundball to third to end the contest and claim the save, his second of the summer.
Team USA will close out pool play against the Netherlands at 7 p.m. on Thursday before beginning medal-round games on Friday, July 20.