Junior National Team falls 3-2 to Cuba at COPABE Pan Am Championships
Team USA suffers devastating loss, giving up all three runs in ninth inning
August 31, 2007
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IXTAPA, Mexico -- Just two outs away from a victory and a berth in the gold-medal game, the USA Baseball Junior National Team saw Cuba rally for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to claim a 3-2 victory against the Americans Aug. 31 in a medal-round semifinal contest at La Hacienda Stadium in the COPABE "AAA" Pan American Junior Championships.
With the loss, Team USA (3-2) will face Canada (3-2) for the bronze medal on Sept. 1 in the final day of competition for the 11-team event. Canada dropped its semifinal game Aug. 31 to host Mexico, 5-4. Cuba, the defending Pan Am champ, will meet Mexico (5-0) for the gold. Game times for both medal games have yet to be announced by tournament officials. The Pan Ams, which features athletes ages 18 and under, serves as a qualifier for next year's International BAseball Federation "AAA" World Championships.
"While we are disappointed after losing to Cuba, I will be excited to see our team come out and play tomorrow," JNT Head Coach Victor Solis said. "We want to compete for the bronze medal. That is still a big goal for us."
It appeared the USA might advance to the title game instead as the Americans led Cuba 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth. Through eight innings, Team USA starter Ryan Weber (RHP; St. Petersburg, FL) had stymied Cuba's powerful offense on just six hits while striking out six. But after retiring Cuba's leadoff hitter to start the frame, the righthander ran into trouble. After getting two strikes on Jorge Barcelan, Weber hit Barcelan with a pitch. Jose Iglesias, who had three hits, then singled to center field before Yasniel Cabezas-Cuba's No. 9 hitter-punched a single to center field to drive in Barcelan and make it a one-run game. Iglesias moved to third base on Cabezas' hit, which ended the day for Weber
"Ryan pitched great," Solis said. "Cuba was able to get a couple of cheap hits off him at the end. But his performance shouldn't be remembered for those late hits. Cuba had other opportunities to score earlier and Ryan was able to get out of those jams and keep us in the game."
Weber (1-1) was replaced on the mound by Nick Maronde (LHP; Lexington, KY). Maronde surrendered an infield single to pinchhitter Jorge Rivero that plated Iglesias to knot the game at 2-2. Adenis Echeverria, who had been hitless in four previous at bats, then pulled a Maronde offering down the left field line for a double to knock in Cabezas with the game-winning run.
The Americans had taken its 2-0 lead by pushing across a pair of unearned runs against Cuban righthander Freddie Alvarez (2-0) in the seventh inning. Jeff Malm (INF; Las Vegas, NV), who collected a pair of hits, opened the inning with a single. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Riccio Torrez (INF; Phoenix, AZ), who was safe at first on the play when Alvarez mishandle the bunt. Eric Hosmer (INF; Cooper City, FL) then moved both runners up a base with another sacrifice bunt. Malm scored the game's first run when Cuba first baseman Jossen Cuesta dropped a throw from third base on a grounder by Mychal Givens (INF; Tampa, FL). Torrez moved to third on the play and then came in to score on a line single to right field by Robbie Grossman (OF; Cypress, TX).
"I thought the game would be won either by a home run or by one team scrambling for a couple of runs," Solis said about his team's two-run seventh inning that broke a scoreless deadlock.
Until that time, Weber and Alvarez had matched pitches through six innings. Alvarez retired 10 Team USA hitters in a row while limiting the Americans to only three hits in the first six innings. Meanwhile, Weber set down 11 consecutive Cuba batters at one stretch from the fifth through eighth innings.
Weber allowed two-out doubles in the second and third frames and back-to-back, two-out singles in the eighth. Weber also escaped a fifth inning when Cuba put runners on second and bases with no one out. But the righthander came up with big pitches to induce a pair of ground outs, including a bouncer to Team USA third baseman Harold Martinez (INF; Miami, FL) who threw out a Cuba base runner at home for the second out of the frame. Martinez also notched two of Team USA's seven hits in the game, which was moved inland to La Hacienda Stadium from the originally scheduled site of Unidad Deportiva Stadium due to wet field conditions at Unidad Deportiva.
"It is always fun to play a team as good as Cuba is," Solis added. "I thought our players did a great job. With a play here or there, this game could easily have gone our way."
USA Baseball is the National Governing Body of the sport in the United States and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The organization selects and trains the USA Baseball National Team, the USA Baseball Junior National Team (18 and under), the USA Baseball Youth National Team (16 and under), the USA Baseball 14U National Team (14 and under) and the USA Baseball Women's National Team, which participate in various international competitions each year.
2007 COPABE "AAA" PAN AMERICAN JUNOR BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
August 24-Sept. 1 Ixtapa, Mexico
||Puerto Rico 3-2
||El Salvador 0-4