Team USA stays on roll, knocks off Surprise 5-3

October 31, 2007

By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com

• Box | Log | Gameday

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For Delwyn Young, it doesn’t seem to matter which level he plays at.

He’s going to hit.

Young, a Dodgers’ prospect and Team USA’s leading hitter, continued his impressive season with a tie-breaking, two-run homer off Angels’ prospect Darren O’Day in the top of the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon. The blast gave Team USA a 5-3 win over the Surprise Rafters at Surprise Stadium.

“He is a great hitter,” Team USA first baseman and Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Steve Pearce said.

The national team, on a two-game winning streak, is 3-2 against Arizona Fall League opponents with one game left on Thursday afternoon against the Peoria Saguaros at Scottsdale Stadium. They will fly to Taiwan on Thursday night for the IABF World Cup that starts on Nov. 6.

“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Pearce said. “This is going to be a great experience for us. We are not at our peak yet and are still trying to knock the dust off of our at-bats. Once this team gets going, we are going to be a tough team to stop.”

And Young is one of the major focal points. The cleanup hitter in all five of Team USA’s games, Young has at least one hit in every contest and is leading the AFL in batting with a .529 average (9-for-17).

“He has a very mature approach,” a scout said. “He has been the best hitter that I have seen here. Whether he will be the hitter in the future remains to be seen.”

The past is quite impressive.

The 26-year-old Young finished third in the Pacific Coast League with a .338 average (min. 100 games) and also hit 17 homers with 97 RBI. Young also led the PCL and finished second in the Minors with 54 doubles.

Those impressive numbers continued in a Major League callup. Young batted .382/417/647 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 34 at-bats. After six weeks off, Young joined Team USA and promptly hit .778 (7-for-9) in his first three games, including a stretch of five straight hits.

Young, who went 1-for-4 in Monday’s win over Mesa, struck out twice and grounded out in his first three at-bats Wednesday. The rest of Team USA didn’t hit much better and tallied three runs in the first six innings.

Pearce, MiLB.com’s Offensive Player of the Year and Team USA’s second-best hitter in the AFL, doubled and scored on Devil Rays’ prospect Justin Ruggiano’s triple in the second inning for the first run.

Pearce, who is batting .364 and leads Team USA in homers and extra-base hits, blasted his second homer in the fourth inning off a fastball by Indians’ prospect David Huff and tied the game at two.

“Just getting the at-bats,” he said. “The more at-bats I get, the more comfortable I get in the box.”

Jeff Karstens allowed two runs on two hits – both homers – in 4 2/3 innings, the longest appearance by a Team USA starter in the Arizona Fall League. Karstens, a Yankee prospect, continued the strong showing by national team starters. In five games, the pitchers have permitted five runs in 13 2/3 innings, good for a 3.29 ERA.

“I have been pleased with the starters,” Team USA manager Davey Johnson said.

Team USA broke the 2-2 stalemate with a sixth inning double by Evan Longoria (Devil Rays) and a RBI single from Dodgers’ prospect Andy LaRoche. Surprise tied the game in the seventh.

With runners on second and third and two outs, Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) relieved Jerry Blevins (Athletics) and Chris Pettit (Angels) hit a ground ball to deep short. Brian Bixler (Pirates) fielded the ball, but his throw to first was a split-second late and a run scored.

Young provided the final margin an inning later.

“I like being him on deck or in the hole watching him hit,” Pearce said. “I just hope there are two guys on base when he comes up, because he is that good of a hitter that he is going to get the job done.”

There was just one baserunner this time.

After Longoria doubled with one out, Young turned on a 2-2 pitch from O’Day and smacked it well over the right-center field fence.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com.