18U: Nunez's doubles lead USA in 6-6 tie
Taichung City mounts ninth-inning comeback for split
TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- USA grabbed an early 6-1 lead behind the offensive efforts of Dom Nunez and Willie Abreu, but the Taichung City All-Stars climbed back, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning by virtue of the international tie-breaker.
USA held the lead through eight complete innings. In the ninth, the teams agreed to practice the international tie-breaker rule, where runners are placed on first and second with no outs. In the bottom of the ninth, Taichung City pushed across the tying run using the tie-breaker method to finish the game 6-6.
After a slugglish offensive performance on Sunday, Team USA wasted no time finding its swing on Monday night. With one out in the top of the first, Nunez hit a line drive into the left-center gap, and raced into second standing up. Abreu made it runners on the corners with a single through the left side, and Jeremy Martinez made it 2-0 with a towering double to left field.
Nunez would finish the night 2-for-2 with two doubles, two walks and an RBI.
The offense didn't stop there. With Martinez standing on second, Reese McGuire worked a walk. Chris Okey hit a sharp ground ball to the third baseman, who stepped on the bag, but made an errant throw to first that allowed McGuire to score, putting the USA up three.
The Taichung City All-Stars pushed back in the bottom of the first. Starter Ryan Olson sawed off Bi Li An, forcing Martinez, the third baseman, to jump over the bouncing bat barrel as he fielded the ball, allowing An to beat the throw for an infield single. The next batter, Yang Chia Shian singled through the right side to put runners on the corners. Taichung City got on the board when Ju Li Ren singled just over the outstretched glove of shortstop Christian Arroyo.
Olson held his composure on the mound. With runners on first and second, the righty delivered a perfect 2-1 pitch to start a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play, sending USA back up to bat with a 3-1 lead.
The offense kept its foot on the gas in the second. Arroyo led off the inning with a double to straight-away center. Brigman followed up by laying down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed by the third baseman, giving the USA runners on first and third. Brigman took off for second as the pitcher picked over, allowing Arroyo to break for home, beating a desperation throw by the first baseman. Nunez cracked his second double of the night on the next pitch, making it 5-1 USA.
Once again two wasn't enough. After Nunez moved up to third on a wild pitch, Abreu drove a ground ball up the middle for an RBI-single, giving USA a 6-1 advantage, and forcing Taichung City to make a pitching change after just four outs.
Taichung City continued to fight back in the bottom of the second. Olson issued a free pass with two outs, and an error by Martinez extended the inning. Leadoff hitter Ma Wen Show doubled down the left field line to cut the lead to 6-2. Olson got the next hitter to ground out to the shortstop to end the threat.
The California native finished his evening having thrown two innings, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and walking one. He gave way to southpaw Garrett Williams. The lefty yielded a leadoff single in the third, but then pitched his way to a 6-4-3 double play, before getting a strikeout to end the frame.
Williams again allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth, but again the lefty beared down. After striking out Chen How Jen, Williams, Okey and Arroyo combined for the strike'em out, throw'em out double play to end the inning. Ju Chun Shian swung through Williams pitch, and Okey fired down to Arroyo who caught the ball on the run and tagged the runner to retire the side.
Taichung City got a pair of runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Williams issued consecutive walks to lead off the inning. When B. L. An reached on a bunt single, the bases were loaded with no outs. Williams induced a 6-4-3 double play, but a run came across to make it 6-3. J.L. Ren hit a ground ball toward third, which Martinez snagged on a diving stop, but Nunez couldn't handle the wild throw at first and another run scored. After issuing another walk, USA got out of the inning on a ground ball to Nunez at first.
Williams would leave the game after the fifth, in line to earn his first victory as a member of the 18U National Team after allowing two runs over three innings of work. He allowed three hits while also striking out a trio of Taichung City All Stars.
The red,white and blue lineup got the leadoff hitter on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but were unable to capitalize, as the Taichung City bullpen kept USA off the board.
The USA bullpen matched as Connor Heady came on in the sixth. Heady retired the side in a very unconventional 1-2-3 manner. After getting a strikeout and a lineout to Brigman at second base, the righty punched out C.Y. Chen, but he reached on a dropped third strike. However, two pitches later, Martinez -- who moved behind the plate -- threw out Chen as he attempted to steal.
While the Taichung City bullpen continued to put up zeros, the offense kept chipping away at the USA lead. M.W. Show reached on an error to start the seventh inning. After stealing second, he moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a passed ball, cutting the USA lead to 6-5.
After exchanging a pair of zeros in the eighth, Team USA requested to practice the international tie-breaker rule in the ninth inning. Manager Scott Brosius elected to send Nunez to the plate, placing Ryan Boldt at first and Brigman at second. Nunez laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up. Abreu followed by hitting a groundball to the shortstop. As Abreu was retired at first, Boldt found himself stranded between second and third, but was able to get back just in time to avoid the out. With two outs, reliever Li Tzu Yang jammed Martinez for a lazy line drive to the first baseman to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, USA left-hander John Kilichowski faced the same scenario. Leadoff hitter M.W. Show laid down a bunt, but Okey dashed in from first and gunned the runner down at third. However, one pitch later the runners moved up 90 feet on a passed ball forcing Kilichowski to issue an intentional walk. The next batter singled to left, scoring Wei, but Keegan Thompson and Nunez relayed the ball to Martinez to get Show trying to score. The next hitter flied out to center to end the game in a tie.
The game concludes the USA's exhibition schedule in Taiwan. The team will fly to Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, where it will begin pool play Thursday in the IBAF Junior 18U/AAA World Championships at 5 a.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. local) against Australia.