FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
TOKYO – A two-run fourth inning for Japan broke a 3-3 tie and gave Japan a lead it would never relinquish on the way to a 7-3 win in the decisive fifth game of the 39th edition of the USA-Japan International Collegiate Friendly Series. UC Irvine’s Taylor Sparks was honored as the top American player in the series.
“The series came down to who pitched better, who played better defense and who got the timely hits. Obviously Japan did that and that’s why they won the series,” remarked manager Jim Schlossnagle (TCU). “I’m proud of the effort from our guys but you have to tip your cap to Japan. They pitched better than us and we didn’t adjust to what they were doing on the mound.”
Florida State’s Luke Weaver got the start for the Collegiate National Team. He allowed three runs on six hits in three innings of work. TCU’s Brandon Finnegan (2-1) took the loss after surrendering the go-ahead runs in the fourth inning. David Berg (UCLA) gave up a pair of runs on two hits and struck out two in 2 1/3 innings of work. Riley Ferrell (TCU) and Ryan Burr (Arizona State) each faced the minimum number of batters in their lone innings of work.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Japan ripped off four straight singles to take a 1-0 lead. Shogo Nakamura bounced a single through the right side to give Japan the early advantage. Weaver worked out of the jam as he got Masataka Yoshida to ground into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
A lead-off single from Austin Cousino (Kentucky) jump started Team USA’s offense in the third inning. Cousino was erased on a ground ball off the bat of Trea Turner (NC State), but Turner utilized his speed with a pair of stolen bases to move into scoring position with one out. A wild pitch from Sachiya Yamasaki allowed Turner to score the game-tying run. Alex Bregman (LSU) drew a one-out walk and was standing on third after a pair of wild pitches. Matt Chapman (Cal State Fullerton) gave Team USA the 2-1 lead as he lined a single through the left side.
Japan rebounded to regain the lead as it pushed across two runs on two hits in the third. Shori Okido led off the inning with a base hit and scored on a triple off the bat of Kanji Kawai to tie the game. Ryutara Umeno grounded out to give Japan a 3-2 lead.
Team USA fought back in the top of the fourth to tie the game at three. Grayson Greiner (South Carolina) drew a lead-off walk and moved to second on a Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco) sacrifice. Cousino tied the game with a seeing-eye single through the right side to make it 3-3.
The see-saw affair continued in the bottom of the fourth as Japan took advantage of two free bases to score two runs for a 5-3 lead. Hiromi Oka was plunked with one out and stole second. He was standing on third after a passed ball and score on a base hit from Hiroki Minei to give Japan the lead. A ground out from Okido pushed the lead to two.
Back-to-back one out solo home runs from Umeno and Nakamura in the fifth inning extended Japan’s lead to four, 7-3.
Team USA scratched across a run in the seventh after taking advantage of a lead-off single from Bregman. He was standing on second with two outs when Sparks singled through the left side to drive him home, cutting the lead to three, 7-4.
Japan would let Team USA get no closer as it shut the door. Ryoto Sekiya pitched around a one-out two-base error in the eighth and combined with Yasuaki Yamaski to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth inning to lock up the series win for Japan.
The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team will return to U.S. soil on Saturday to begin preparations for the USA-Cuba Friendly series which is slated to open on July 18 in Des Moines, Iowa. Team USA will play a pair of exhibition contests in the Chicago area before heading to Iowa. First up is a meeting against the Crystal Lake Cardinals at Judson University in Elgin, Ill. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Monday, July 15.