PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba – The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team dropped both ends of a doubleheader against Cuba on Saturday, falling 2-1 in the first game and 7-3 in the second at Capitán San Luis Stadium.
Team USA will look to salvage a win in the series finale against Cuba at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday. Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser is set to toe the rubber in the final game of the summer for the Red, White and Blue.
In Saturday’s first game, Cuba got on the scoreboard early when a one-out walk in the top of the first made his way to third on a single and scored on a groundout to second. It tacked on another run in the fourth as Guillermo Heredia roped a triple to right before racing home when the cutoff throw sailed over the head of the third baseman.
The U.S. had two prime scoring opportunities go by the wayside in consecutive innings as it loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth and put two on with nobody out in the fifth. Cuba would turn inning-ending double plays in both stanzas, however, to escape unscathed.
Team USA finally got on the board in the eighth, breaking a 17-inning scoreless streak, thanks to an error by Cuba third baseman Luis Yander La O. With runners on first and second and two outs, DJ Stewart (Florida State) hit a high chopper to the hot corner. The throw from Yander La O. bounced away at first, allowing Christin Stewart
(Tennessee) to race home and cut the U.S. deficit in half, 2-1.
That would be as close as it would get, however, as Yasiel Sierra pitched the final 1.1 innings to close out the win and earn the save for Cuba.
Carson Fulmer (Vanderbilt) suffered the loss for the U.S. despite pitching six quality innings in which he allowed just two runs – one earned – on five hits while striking out three. Tyler Jay (Illinois) finished off the game with three scoreless stanzas, yielding just one hit.
In game two, Cuba jumped all over Team USA right from the get-go, scoring twice in the first frame and putting up a four-spot in the second before Walker Buehler (Vanderbilt) came out of the bullpen to settle things down. He would go on to throw 6.1 innings of relief while making his Collegiate National Team debut with Cuba managing just one unearned run on four hits against him during that time.
While Buehler was able to cool of Cuba’s bats a bit, Team USA was still struggling to get theirs heated up with Cuba starting pitcher Yoanni Yera holding the U.S. off the basepaths altogether for the first three innings of the contest before a leadoff single by Alex Bregman (LSU) to start the fourth.
Team USA would put a tally on the scoreboard against Yera in the bottom of the sixth with Tate Matheny (Missouri State) punching an RBI single through the right side and Nick Banks (Texas A&M) would add another run in the seventh by launching a line-drive rocket over the right-field wall but that was it against Yera. He would finish with seven quality innings, allowing just the two runs on five hits while striking out six.
The U.S. would inch closer against Cuban reliever Carlos Juan Viera in the eighth with Matheny striking again with his second RBI base hit of the game to move the Collegiate National Team within four at 7-3.
Once again though, Team USA would not be able to trim its deficit any further with Viera shutting the door in the bottom of the ninth.