18U: Taccolini pitches USA past VEN, 3-2
Texan fires six shutout innings in relief to pick up the win
SEOUL, South Korea -- With his team trailing, 2-0, Dominic Taccolini took over in relief and willed Team USA past Venezuela, 3-2. The right-hander struck out eight over six scoreless innings and held Venezuela in check until Cavan Biggio hit a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
Left-handed starter Carson Sands opened things with some oomph, literally, hitting the first batter of the game in the back with a 3-2 fastball. With the leadoff man on, Sands tightened up his command, getting an infield pop fly for the first out. Jose Lino, who had reached on the HBP, tried to steal second but was thrown out by catcher Chris Okey for the second out. On the next pitch, Wilson Garcia hit a line drive into the glove of Christian Arroyo to end the top of the first inning.
In the bottom half of the first, Ryan Boldt picked up where he left off on Sunday. The leadoff batter walked to start the game for the USA offense -- he tied the record for walks in a game on Sunday with four. Once on first, the Venezuela defense was hesitant of the stolen base threat, pitching out before finally picking Boldt off first for the out. With two outs, Jeremy Martinez hit a ground-ball single up the middle for the first hit of the game. Andy McGuire followed up with a walk. Facing two runners on, starter Ismael Zerpa caught Reese McGuire on a check swing for an inning-ending strikeout, sending the teams to the second scoreless.
Sands continued to find the zone in the second inning. The lefty started the inning by getting back-to-back ground-ball outs to shortstop, before taking matters into his own hands and getting his first strikeout of the game.
Willie Abreu singled the first pitch through the left side to lead things off for the USA. Christian Arroyo battled through his at-bat before singling through the right side. With two men on, Dom Nunez laid down the sacrifice but to push the runners into scoring position. Once again Zerpa would bend, but not break, for Venezuela. The lefty got Connor Heady to pop out to the second baseman and fielded Boldt's bunt and fired to first for the final out of the inning.
Venezuela got on the board in the third inning. After being held hitless in the first two frames, William Cuicas ripped a double down the left field line to score Angel Yepez who had walked to lead off the inning. Sands issued consecutive walks to load the bases with no outs. Isaias Lucena hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score the second run of the inning for Venezuela. Sands stiffened up and got back-to-back ground balls to keep the deficit at two.
Martinez knocked his second single of the night with one out in the third inning. But, USA could not capitalize, as Andy McGuire hit into a fielder's choice and Reese McGuire flew out to center field.
After Sands issued his fourth walk to start the fourth inning, manager Scott Brosius made a move to the bullpen to bring in right-hander Dominic Taccolini. The Texas native found the strike zone immediately, getting a strike out, a ground out and a popup to shortstop to strand the runner on base and keep the score at 2-0.
Sands finished the day throwing three innings, allowing two runs and one hit, issuing four walks and hitting a batter. Sand left in line for the loss, but his offense got him off the hook in a hurry.
USA finally get on the board in the fourth inning. Abreu bashed a triple to lead off the inning on an 0-2 pitch. The next batter, Arroyo, singled his fellow Floridian home to cut the Venezuela lead to one. Arroyo came around to score with two outs when Boldt laced a line drive over the second baseman for a game-tying RBI single.
Taccolini continued to dominate in relief for the United States. After his offense tied the game, he used just nine pitches to retire the side. A strikeout, a groundout and a fly out put Venezuela away 1-2-3.
The pitching got better and better as the game progressed. Both teams traded easy zeros into the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, USA put its first real threat together since the fourth inning. Martinez ripped a double with one out to get things going. Martinez moved to third on a wild pitch, before Reese McGuire drew a two-out walk to put runners on the corners. Abreu stepped to the plate and drilled a line drive right to the waiting glove of the second baseman to end the inning.
In the top of the eighth, Taccolini surrendered his first hit of the game. He quickly erased the threat by getting a ground ball back to Arroyo at shortstop, who stepped on second and fired to first for the double play. After walking his first batter, Taccolini punched out Victor Colmenares to end the inning, keeping the momentum on the USA side.
Arroyo led off the bottom of the eighth with a walk against Ismael Zerpa. After a wild pitch moved him to second base, Nunez laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the go-ahead run just 90 feet away. In a crucial RBI spot, Brosius elected to have Cavan Biggio pinch-hit. On the third pitch, Biggio ripped a hard ground ball back up the middle for a go-ahead RBI single, giving USA a 3-2 lead.
With the lead, Taccolini walked back out to the mound for the ninth inning. He wasted no time finishing the job, striking out the first two Venezuelan hitters before a soft fly out to right field ended the game.
Taccolini picked up the win, firing six scoreless innings, striking out eight and allowing just one hit and one walk.
Team USA finishes pool play on Tuesday at 5 a.m. Eastern Time (6 p.m. local) when it takes on Australia. Following Tuesday night's game, the top three teams from each pool will advance to the crossover games, with the two teams with the best records following crossover play advancing to the gold-medal game.