18U: USA to play Canada in gold-medal game
Arroyo, David propel the U.S. past Japan, 10-5, to advance
SEOUL, South Korea -- In a de facto world championships semifinals game, Team USA needed to make two comebacks. They took a lead in the seventh inning on Christian Arroyo's RBI single, and Kevin Davis pitched them to victory out of the bullpen as USA defeated Japan, 10-5, to advance to Saturday's gold-medal game.
In the top of the first inning, Dominic Taccolini issued a free pass to the leadoff hitter. Five pitches later, the miscue was quickly erased when a ground ball to third base turned into a 5-4-3 double play. Taccolini allowed a single through the right side before corralling a ground ball back to him and firing to first to end the inning.
The offense got its first real scoring opportunity in the bottom of the second. Willie Abreu reached on a fielding error by the third baseman and proceeded to steal second. Cavan Biggio pulled a single through the right side, and Abreu was waved home. Abreu slid into home as the catcher caught the relay throw and made a swipe tag. Abreu was called out on the play, keeping the USA off the board early.
Taccolini induced a ground ball to start the third inning, but then issued a walk. After striking out Ryoya Kaneko, a series of walks and wild pitches allowed a run to come across, and Scott Brosius was forced to make an early move to the bullpen.
Brosius called on Kevin Davis with two outs and the bases loaded. Davis walked the first hitter, allowing a second run to score. Davis settled in, though, getting the next batter to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Japan added another run in the top of the fourth inning. Fumiya Hojo worked a walk to lead off the inning. He was sacrificed over to second and moved up to third base on Tomoya Mori's single to left field. Hojo dashed across home on a wild pitch to make Japan's lead 3-0.
USA punched back in the bottom of the inning. Chris Okey singled and Abreu drew a walk with one out. Both runners got into scoring position on Biggio's groundout to the right side. Facing two outs and two strikes, Arroyo hit a ground-ball single to left field that scored Okey and Abreu to trim the Japanese lead to one.
Batting with one out in the fifth, Gen Mizumoto crushed a ball to deep center field. He rounded second hard, and Ryan Boldt relayed a throw to Arroyo who fired to a trailing Biggio for the momentum gaining out. Davis punched out two in the inning to keep the momentum in the United States' favor.
Japan elected to go to the bullpen in the fifth inning, bringing in left-handed pitcher Tatsuro Hamada. He offered just four pitches -- a walk to Boldt -- before Japan brought in Takahito Otsuka. A sacrifice bunt by Dom Nunez and a stolen base got Boldt to third with one out. Jeremy Martinez grounded out, but Boldt was forced to hold up at third. With Reese McGuire at the plate, Otsuka threw a wild pitch allowing Boldt to race home to tie the game.
The game didn't stay tied long. After Kazuti Iyota walked to lead off the sixth, Mori ripped a double into left field to put two runners in scoring position without an out. Davis got a strikeout, but Tatsushiro Tamura hit a fly ball to left field to score the runner from third. With two outs, Shohei Otani's infield single put Japan up, 5-3.
USA immediately fought back. Arroyo got things going when he was hit by a pitch with one out in the sixth. Garrett Williams drew a walk, and Boldt singled home Arroyo to cut the score to 5-4. Nunez followed by wearing a pitch to load the bases, but Otsuka got Martinez to roll into a double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Japan went to tall right-hander Shintaro Fujinami. The Japanese ace threw a complete game against Korea the night before and worked five innings just a day earlier against Colombia. Working in his 15th inning in less than 48 hours, Fujinami got McGuire to hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who couldn't make the play. The next batter, Okey, also hit a ground ball to the shortstop who this time over threw first base for a two-base error give USA runners at second and third with no outs.
Abreu hit a ground ball to the first baseman, who fired home as McGuire tried to score. The ball beat McGuire, causing a major collision at home plate. The catcher hung on to the ball for the out, but had to be helped off the field and there was a lengthy delay.
After waiting several minutes, Biggio stepped to the plate in a crucial situation. The left-handed hitter squared a 2-1 pitch into left field to drive in Okey to tie the game at five. Arroyo followed with a single to right. The right fielder tried to relay home to stop Abreu, but Abreu collided with the catcher, knocking the ball free to score the go-ahead run.
The inning continued to spiral for Japan and Fujinami, as the tired ace threw a wild pitch allowing Biggio to score. Williams then hit a ground ball to the second baseman, which allowed Arroyo to score from third, giving USA an 8-5 lead.
Pitching with the lead for the first time, Davis continued to dominate out of the bullpen. The right-hander pitched around single to retire the side in the eighth inning and put Team USA three outs from a rematch with Canada for the gold medal.
The red, white and blue lineup continued to apply pressure in the eighth inning. Nunez reached first on a dropped third strike, and then took two bases on a wild pitch. McGuire drew a one-out walk to put runners on the corners and force a pitching change. Ryuhei Johma came in, and Okey hit his second offering for an RBI infield single. Okey stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. He then scored when Abreu hit a ground ball to the right side, where Japan made its sixth error of the night, giving USA a 10-5 lead.
Davis set the Japanese lineup down in order in the top of the ninth to seal the victory.
When the final out went into the glove of Williams, USA advanced to the gold-medal game where they will face Canada on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET (6 p.m. local). The two teams met three days ago, with Canada prevailing, 1-0, in extra innings.