THUNDER BAY – Cuba edged the USA Baseball 18U National Team 3-2 Friday afternoon in front of more than 3000 fans at Port Arthur Stadium. USA falls to 5-1 in 2010 IBAF World Junior “AAA” (18U) Baseball Championships and is eliminated from medal contention.
A.J. Vanegas (Alameda, Calif.) tossed eight innings allowing two runs on five hits with a team-best 13 strikeouts. Vanegas’ 13 punch-outs ranks second all-time in U.S. history, just two shy of the record 15.
Phillip Pfeifer (Knoxville, Tenn.) suffers the loss allowing the go-ahead run in the final frame. The two U.S. hurlers combined to strike out a team-best 15 batters Friday.
“A.J. pitched outstanding and kept us in the ball game,” said assistant coach Brian McRae. “It is obviously disappointing for our team because of the time, effort and sacrifice you put in to get here.”
Michael Lorenzen (Anaheim, Calif.) paced the USA attack with three hits and one RBI. Blake Swihart (Rio Rancho, N.M.) added a pair of hits, but leaving 10 runners on base – including several in scoring position, plagued the U.S. offense.
Cuba darted out to a 1-0 lead in the first after a solo home run off the bat of Guillermo Aviles. Vanegas was not shaken striking out the side to end the first frame.
The U.S. evened the score in the second inning after a two-out Lorenzen double scored Nicky Delmonico (Knoxville, Tenn.). The Red, White and Blue threatened in the third frame, but stranded half of their runners on base through the first three innings.
Cuba pushed in front 2-1 in the fourth scoring on back-to-back doubles from Jorge Soler and Geikis Jimenez. Vanegas maintained his poise on the mound, striking out the side in the fifth and keeping the U.S. within striking distance.
Cuban pitcher Omar Luis settled in from the fourth to seventh frame, retiring 11 straight U.S. batters in a row. A walk issued to Brian Ragira (Arlington, Tex.) ended Luis’ streak, but Team USA failed to capitalize after a double play.
Team USA rallied in the eighth to knot the score at two. A two-out Bubba Starling (Gardner, Kan.) RBI single scored Tony Wolters (Vista, Calif.) to tie the score at two.
Pfeifer entered to pitch in the ninth. Cuba generated the go-ahead run on a double off the bat of Lazaro Hernandez to push in front 3-2. Pfeifer wriggled out the jam with two strikeouts and a botched squeeze bunt attempt.
The U.S. battled to the end loading the bases with after three straight base runners reached safely with two outs. The rally fell just short as the Luis’ complete-game effort ended with a fielder’s choice.
Team USA will now meet the loser of Korea and Australia Saturday at 4:30 p.m. from Baseball Central. The U.S., the only unbeaten team in pool play, will play two more games and can finish as high as fifth place.
The 2010 IBAF World Junior “AAA” (18U) Baseball Championship hosts national teams from Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela and the United States. Teams began 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 1-877-422-3201.
Team USA struck out a summer best 15 batters . . . The 15 strikeouts ranks third all-time in U.S. World Championship history . . . The record is set at 19 against Spain in 2002 . . . Vanegas’ 13 strikeouts are the most by a U.S. hurler this season and the second best all-time by a U.S. pitcher in the World Championships . . . The record is set at 15 by Rick Ankiel and Cory Vance, both in 1997 . . . Team USA outhit the Cubans 10 to six, accompanying their 15 strikeouts . . . Lorenzen raised his tournament average to .667 with a 3-for-4 performance Friday.