18U Team trips Cuba to take gold
Gold medal is first for 18U program in a Pan Ams event
The gold was the first for Team USA in the Pan Ams at the 18U level and came against a country that had won the last seven Pam Am championships. The Americans defeated Cuba (6-2) twice during the nine-day event to finish as the tournament's lone unbeaten team with an 8-0 mark.
"I am very proud of this team," 18U National Team Head Coach Garye LaFevers said. "Sometimes we might have struggled but each time we knew we had each other's backs. With this group, it was all about the team. That's what the coaches preached to the players from Day 1. These guys came together to make a great team. It never mattered to them who got the pat on the back."
On a cloudy, cool day with intermittent rain -- the precipitation forced a 35-minute delay after the second inning -- Taillon and Cuba starter Julio Martinez locked up in a classic pitchers' duel for six innings. Through six, each squad managed only two hits with no runners for either team reaching third base.
But Team USA put the game away against Martinez, a left-hander, and three relievers with its big seventh inning by sending 11 batters to the plate.
With one out, the Americans loaded the bases on singles by Nicholas Delmonico and Manny Machado and a walk by Garin Cecchini. Brian Ragira snapped the scoreless game by grounding a single through the left side to drive home Delmonico and Machado. Cory Hahn then blooped a single to left field to drive in Cecchini for a 3-0 USA lead.
That ended the day for Martinez, and Cuba brought in another left-hander, Joan Socarras. But Sean Coyle greeted Socarras with an RBI single to left to knock in Ragira for the USA's fourth run of the inning. After Tony Wolters was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Bryce Harper drove in Hahn with a sacrifice fly to left. After another new pitcher, Carlos Martinez, issued a walk to Nick Castellanos to reload the bases, Coyle scored on a wild pitch for the final run of the frame.
The six-run uprising was more than enough for Taillon. The right-hander breezed through the first seven innings, striking out 15 while issuing just one walk and permitting three hits. After getting a groundout to start the eighth inning, he recorded his 16th strikeout to set a single-game record for a USA pitcher in a Pan Ams game. The former record of 15 was shared by Scott Kazmir (vs. Cuba in 2001) and Jeff Manship (vs. Netherlands Antilles in 2003). After surrendering a base hit to Guillermo Heredia, Taillon was replaced by fellow right-hander Connor Mason.
"Jameson did a great job," LaFevers said. "He just kept mowing them down. We were a little concerned with the rain delay about bringing him back in to pitch. We tried to keep him loose by having him throw during the delay."
Mason finished the eighth inning, and, after Mason plunked Cuba's Jorge Soler to open the ninth, LaFevers brought in right-hander Kevin Gausman. Gausman got a first-pitch double-play to put the Americans just one out away from the title. Gausman did allow three hits and Cuba's lone run before getting a grounder for a force play at second base to end the two-hour, 46-minute contest.
Several USA players were honored with tournament awards. From statistics based on qualifying-round action, Castellanos was cited for the most runs scored (12), Delmonico for most doubles (4) and Harper for fielding percentage as a catcher (1.000 percent). Harper was named as catcher on the all-tournament team and was joined by Machado at shortstop and Ragira in the outfield.
The 18U National Team's gold medal continues an impressive string of success for USA Baseball programs this summer. The USAB National Team claimed the title in the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, British Columbia. The 16U National Team earned the gold medal at the IBAF "AA" (16U) World Youth Championships in Taichung, Taiwan. Team USA also won the IBAF World Cup, which concluded play in late September in Nettuno, Italy.
Oct. 3 Medal Results
Gold Medal Game: USA def. Cuba, 6-1
Bronze Medal Game: Venezuela def. Panama, 8-2
Final Team Standings
1. USA (8-0)
2. Cuba (6-2)
3. Venezuela (5-3)
4. Panama (3-5)
5. Aruba (3-4)
6. Colombia (1-6)
7. Argentina (0-6)