Matt Chapman’s two-out single in the 11th inning gave the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team a 2-1 victory over Cuba in game one of the Friendship Series.
“I thought it was a great ballgame,” remarked manager Jim Schlossnagle (TCU). “We had every opportunity to cave in there, we had opportunities to break the game open and Ryan Burr had a chance to cave in once he gave up the tying run after being a strike away from finishing the game. Guys did a great job and they hung in there. It’s a tremendous advantage being the home team in the international tiebreaker.”
Playing with international tiebreaker rules in each of the last two innings, the game didn’t lack for drama as both teams made key plays to keep their chances for a win in tact.
Team USA’s David Berg (UCLA) came through in the clutch in the top of the 11th as he was facing runners on the corners with only one out. He didn’t allow the ball out of the infield to strand the go-ahead run at third.
In the bottom of the inning, Cuba got a big first out as they foiled a sacrifice attempt, throwing out the runner at third. Facing two outs, Chapman came through with a line-drive to right that just missed the outstretched glove of Yasmani Thomas and fell in for the game-winning hit.
“It’s always exciting to beat Cuba,” said Chapman. “We might be the underdogs because we are younger, but it’s just fun to contribute and help my team out. Cuba plays the game like they are pretty experienced. Their infielders were really good with the ball. They are solid on defense. The hitters have good approaches. I think it’s going to be a good, competitive series.”
The Team USA pitching staff held Cuba in check for much of the first eight innings. Carlos Rodon (NC State), Preston Morrison (TCU) and Riley Ferrell (TCU) combined to allow just five base runners and none advanced past first base.
Facing its final strike in the ninth, Cuba mounted a furious rally to get the game knotted at one. Tomas fought off the two-strike count and battled back to draw a walk. Edilse Silva followed with a single to give Cuba two base runners in an inning for the first time in the contest. Jose Fernandez tied the game with a single to center field.
The CNT grabbed the early lead in the game as it took advantage of a lead-off walk to Chapman in the third. He wasted no time stealing second and moved to third when the throw ricocheted into the outfield. With one out, Trea Turner (NC State) drove the ball into centerfield for a sacrifice fly and a 1-0 lead.
Team USA had its chances to add to its lead, twice loading the bases, but each time Cuba pitched out of the jam setting up the ninth-inning comeback. In total, the CNT stranded nine runners through eight innings of play.
Rodon set the tone for Team USA’s pitching staff, allowing just two base runners in 3 1/3 innings of work. He finished his outing with four strikeouts. Morrison followed with an equally impressive outing. The right-hander allowed just two base hits, struck out three and retired the final eight batters he faced in 3 2/3 innings. Ferrell struck out two around a one out walk in a scoreless eighth. Ryan Burr (Arizona State) allowed a run on two hits, walked one and struck out four in 1 2/3 innings. Chris Diaz (Miami, Fla.) picked up the final out of the 10th.
The USA-Cuba Friendship series shifts to Werner Park in Omaha, Nebraska for games two and three. Florida State’s Luke Weaver will get the call in game two on Friday night. First pitch is slated for 8:05 (ET).
Taken from web.usabaseball.com