MINNETONKA, MINN. –- The road to Thunder Bay continues. The 2010 IBAF World Junior “AAA” (18U) Baseball Championship will feature teams from around the world vying for national pride. The United States is a strong contender.
Brian Ragira (Arlington, Tex./Stanford) notched three hits and two RBIs to propel the USA Baseball 18U National Team over the Minnesota Class A All-Stars 5-4 Tuesday night at Veterans Field. AJ Vanegas (Alameda, Calif./Stanford) pitched the squad to the win improving Team USA to 7-0 in exhibition play.
Vanegas (2-0) allowed just two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings of work with seven strikeouts. Lance McCullers (Tampa, Fla.) worked a perfect ninth, striking out the side on just 13 pitches, to earn his first save. John Hochstatter (Danville, Calif.) tossed 2 1/3 innings allowing two runs, one earned, on two hits.
Ragira paced the U.S. offensively with half of the team’s hits and a third of its run production. Francisco Lindor (Clermont, Fla.) added two RBIs and a double to round out the USA attack.
“We played a very talented and sound baseball team tonight,” exclaimed head coach Garye LaFevers. “We battled through some adversity and continue to improve as a ball club.”
The Minnesota All-Stars darted out to a 2-0 lead in the first. A two-run home run off the bat of Mike Davis, which preceded a by a hit-by-pitch, allowed the All-Stars to grab an early lead.
Team USA stormed back to manufacture three runs on three consecutive hits in the bottom of the second. Bubba Starling (Gardner, Kan./Nebraska) started the hit brigade with a single to right center and Ragira capped the big inning with a two-RBI triple in the right center field gap. The Arlington, Tex., product later scored on a wild pitch to give USA a 3-2 lead after two frames.
Vanegas settled in with the lead to allow only three base runners in his next 3 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander worked ahead in the count to preserve the 3-2 Eagle lead.
The Red, White and Blue scratched out two runs on one hit in the seventh. Lindor parachuted a two-RBI double down the left field line in what proved to be the difference for Team USA.
The Minnesota All-Stars equaled the USA’s run total in the top of the eighth courtesy of a pair of U.S. errors. Hochstatter escaped the eventful frame with a timely 6-4-3 double play and big strikeout, to hold a 5-4 lead.
McCullers was electric in the ninth, sitting all three batters faced down on strikes to seal the U.S. win.
The 18U National team will resume exhibition play Wednesday night against the Chaska Cubs in Chaska, Minn. The U.S. will play nine exhibition games against area all-star teams and international opponents in Minnesota, before embarking on the 2010 IBAF “AAA” (18U) World Junior Championships from July 23-Aug. 1.
The 2010 IBAF World Junior “AAA” (18U) Baseball Championship will host national teams from Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela and the United States.
Teams will begin qualifying games on July 23 and the tournament will culminate in the gold medal game on August 1 at Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Visit the website at www.worldbaseball2010.com. For tickets, please call toll free at