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USA Baseball defeats Cuba 3-2 in Extra Innings

USABASEBALL_thumb.jpgOMAHA, Neb. – In yet another tightly contested game, the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-2 10th inning win over Cuba Friday night. Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber drove in the eventual game-winner with a sacrifice fly.

“I think they have both been great ballgames with elite pitching on both sides,” remarked manager Jim Schlossnagle (TCU). “You are looking for a bounce one way or another or you’re looking for a mistake. They scored their runs by us playing poor defense in one inning and we got a tough hop on a double play ball that scored a run. Luke was outstanding. I thought he was really, really good. He had a good fastball, a good change up and he had a good breaking ball. He deserved a better fate for sure, but their guy matched him. They have a lot of salty veterans in that dugout.”

Each team had a chance to win the game in the ninth inning as they put the go-ahead or game-winning run on base. UC Irvine’s Taylor Sparks singled with one out, but was stranded on third. Cuba’s Edilse Silva also reached on a one-out base hit, but he was stranded at second sending the game to extras for the second consecutive night.

Playing with the international tiebreaker rules, Team USA struck first in the top of the 10th. Trea Turner (NC State) worked a walk to load the bases. With one out, Schwarber drove the ball into the outfield and Sparks raced home with the go-ahead run.

“I was looking just to get a pitch up in the zone to get the ball in the air,” said Schwarber. “He threw a fastball down and I just missed it, but it got out there far enough for a sacrifice fly. It’s a huge win for us. Playing in these extra inning games isn’t easy, especially with the international rules. It’s nice to have the crowds out here cheering for the USA and it’s an honor to wear this jersey.”

Cuba put the pressure on in the bottom of the inning as it battled to get the game tied. Jose Fernandez dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. Team USA went to the bullpen and called on Riley Ferrell (TCU). The right-hander did his job as he got a big strikeout for out No. 2, then got Yulieski Gourriel to ground out to close out the game.

Pitching was once again at a premium as Florida State’s Weaver and Cuba’s Freddy A. Alvarez went toe-to-toe for six innings. Weaver fanned five and gave up two unearned runs on five hits in six innings of work. Alvarez was touched for two runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings of work. He finished the night with nine punch outs.

Similar to game one, Team USA struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. A lead-off walk to Schwarber helped Team USA break the stalemate. A wild pitch moved him to second with one out, prompting Cuba to issue Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco) an intentional walk. A passed ball followed moving both runners into scoring position with only one out. Matt Chapman (Cal State Fullerton) hit a hot shot back to the pitcher. The ball deflected off his glove, allowing Schwarber to score for a 1-0 Team USA lead.

Cuba wasted little time getting back in the game in the bottom of the fourth. Yasmani Tomas reached on a one-out error and was standing on third after a Gourriel double. Yunior Paumier tied the game at one with a sacrifice fly to center and Lorenzo Quintana put Cuba in front, 2-1, with a seeing-eye single through the left side.

Austin Cousino (Kentucky) kick-started Team USA in the seventh as Team USA fought back to tie the game at two. His one-out triple followed by Sparks taking a pitch off the leg forced Cuba to play conservative defense. South Carolina’s Grayson Greiner hit a grounder to second that looked like it could be a double play ball, but after a bad hop, everyone was safe as Cousino slid home to tie the game at two.

Team USA used the duo of Matt Imhof (Cal Poly) and David Berg (UCLA) to hold Cuba in check over the final three innings. Imhof allowed one hit and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, while Berg surrendered just one hit in his 1 1/3 innings to earn his second victory of the season.Chris Diaz (Miami, Fla.) retired the lone batter he faced in the 10th.

The victory gives Team USA a 2-0 series lead and improves its tour record to 17-3 overall. The CNT can wrap up the series victory Saturday night at Werner Park in Omaha. TCU’s Brandon Finnegan will get the ball in game three for Team USA. First pitch is slated for 8:05 (ET).

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