USA vs. Cuba for Bronze Medal Today (9am PT/12pm ET/1pm ART)
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Men’s National Team advances to WBSC Americas Qualifier Bronze Medal game with wins over Guatemala and Cuba
PARANÁ, Argentina –– The USA Softball Men’s National Team (MNT) improved to 5-2 today in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBWC) Men’s Pan American Championship after claiming victories over Group A No. 3 seed Guatemala and Group A No. 1 seed Cuba to close out Super Round and advance to tomorrow’s Bronze Medal game for a rematch against Cuba. With today’s wins, Team USA will automatically advance to the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup slated for November 26 – December 4 in Auckland, New Zealand as one of the top four finishers in the Americas Qualifier.
The U.S. offense exploded with 23 hits and 17 runs on the day as Blaine Milheim (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Yusef Davis (Long Beach, Calif.) and Zac Shaw (Odessa, Mo.) each tallied four hits while the pitching staff of Joel Cooley (St. Paul, Minn.) and Brad Kilpatrick (Sydney, Australia) dominated in the circle with a combined nine strikeouts in 12 total innings pitched.
Team USA 8, Guatemala 1
Guatemala took an early lead in Game 1 after a leadoff single followed by a double to left field scored a run in the bottom of the first. Kilpatrick quickly took back control, however, forcing two ground outs and a line out to send the U.S. to the plate, trailing 1-0.
A one-out single from Shaw in the top of the second got things going for the Eagles followed by a groundout from Davis and a wild pitch from the Guatemala pitcher to advance Shaw to third. A walk to Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.) would put runners on the corners for Milheim who sent a clutch two-out base hit through the right side to put the U.S. on the board followed by a two RBI single from Cam Schiller (Prescott, Ariz.) to allow Team USA to pull ahead, 3-1, before a groundout ended the inning. Kilpatrick came out firing in the bottom of the frame with a quick strikeout and fly out before issuing a hit-by-pitch to allow a Guatemala base runner. Remaining unfazed, Kilpatrick fought back with a 10-pitch at-bat resulting in a strikeout to end the inning.
With three walks in the top of the third to load the bases with one out, Davis sent a hard ground ball to right field to bust the game open and tack on two more runs to the U.S. lead. Another walk to Mullins would load the bases again, but a fielder’s choice and a strikeout would leave the Eagles stranded with Team USA up, 5-1. Continuing to dominate on defense, the Eagles made quick work of the Guatemala lineup in the bottom of the frame with two ground outs and a strikeout.
Team USA struck again in the top of the fifth with a single from Shaw followed by a double from Davis and a triple from Mullins to extend the U.S. lead 7-1. With his third hit of the game, Milheim sent a single through the right side to score another U.S. run before a strikeout and a fielder’s choice ended the at-bat. With the run-rule in effect in the bottom of the inning, Kilpatrick closed out the game with three ground outs to give Team USA the 8-1 (five innings) victory over Guatemala.
Team USA 9, Cuba 6
After a leadoff walk to Mullins to start Game 2, Milheim reached base on a fielder’s choice before Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.) followed with a hard ground ball to right field to score the first U.S. run of the game. Cuba quickly answered back, though, with a home run to center field in the bottom of the frame to even the score 1-1 going into the second.
Not allowing the momentum to shift, Team USA loaded the bases with two walks and a single to set the stage for Davis who ripped a ball to center field to score two U.S. runs before Mullins continued the rally with a sacrifice fly to put the Eagles up, 4-1. Milheim and Ochoa strung two more singles together to tack on another pair of runs for Team USA followed by a two-run shot to center from Jonathan Lynch (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) to extend the U.S. lead, 8-1.
A quick ground out would start off the bottom of the frame before a walk allowed Cuba to reach base. Keeping his cool, Cooley buckled down with back-to-back strikeouts to escape the inning with no damage to send Team USA back to the plate.
Shaw wasted no time in leading off the third inning with a solo blast to center field to extend the U.S. lead, 9-1. Davis kept the spark alive with an infield single to reach base, but the Cuba defense issued three quick outs to end the at-bat.
Two singles from Cuba in the bottom of the third put runners in scoring position with two outs. A single to left field would allow a run to score, but a ground out to Shaw would end the threat and limit the damage to one run.
The bats were quiet on both sides through the fourth inning until Cuba came alive with a walk and a single in the bottom of the fifth to score another run, cutting the U.S. lead 9-3.
A two-out walk to Ochoa and a single from Lynch in the top of the sixth would look to start a rally for the Eagles, but a ground out would end the at-bat and send them back to the field where Cooley and the U.S. defense took care of business with a quick 1-2-3 inning.
Heading into the seventh inning with Team USA leading 9-3, Shaw and Mullins both sent singles to left field in hopes to spark a rally, but a fielder’s choice and a ground out would snuff the flame as the U.S. returned to defense for the final inning.
Cooley issued a ground out and a fielder’s choice to record the first two outs of the seventh, but a base hit followed by a triple would score two runs for Cuba with the U.S. holding on 9-5. The threat continued with another single through the left side as Cuba tacked on its sixth run of the game, but Cooley and the U.S. defense proved superior with a ground out to secure the 9-6 U.S. victory.
The Red, White and Blue will take the field in tomorrow’s Bronze Medal game against Cuba at 1 p.m. ART. Live stats and streaming will be available through USASoftball.com.