U.S. Posts Comeback Win Sunday Over Japan
MACON, Ga. – Sparked by a mammoth two-run home run by Bryson Stott (UNLV), the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team bounced back from a three-run deficit and held off a furious ninth-inning rally to clinch the series win over Japan with a 7-6 victory at Luther Williams Field, home of the Macon Bacon.
Trailing 3-0 going into the sixth, the Team USA bats caught fire in the final three innings. After recording just two extra-base hits in the first three games of the series combined, the red, white, and blue had three doubles and two home runs in the last three frames on Sunday alone.
With its third win, the U.S. has officially clinched the 42nd U.S. vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series, improving its series record to 24-18, including a 21-1 mark in series held in the United States. The Collegiate National Team now holds a 127-105-2 record all-time in games against Japan.
After getting rained out in Charleston on Saturday, the fifth and final game between the U.S. and Japan has been rescheduled to take place at SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, at 1:30 p.m. CT on Monday. The contest is open to the scouting community and those on the team pass list.
Four different players had multi-hit contests on Sunday as Team USA tallied a series-high 12 hits. Stott and Dominic Fletcher (Arkansas) both hit two-run home runs in the win, while Andrew Vaughn (California) and Adley Rutschman (Oregon State) each finished 2-for-4 with a single and a double each.
Josh Jung (Texas Tech) also had a solid day at the plate, reaching in all four of his appearances with a single, three walks, and a run scored.
Pitching in relief, Parker Caracci (Ole Miss) picked up the win with 3.1 shutout innings. He struck out three and allowed just one hit. Max Meyer (Minnesota) pitched the ninth to record his team-leading fifth save of the summer and third against Japan.
Making his second start of the series, Japan right-hander Wataru Matsumoto was terrific once again, striking out seven in 5.2 innings. For the series, he now has 23 strikeouts in 12.2 innings of work, allowing just three runs on 10 hits.
Team USA had an early opportunity to break the game open, loading the bases with nobody out in the home half of the second, but Japan was able to escape unscathed, retiring a runner at the plate on a fielder’s choice before Matsumoto snared a one-hopper back to the mound to start an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
Japan took the momentum and ran with it, scoring three runs in the next frame. Motoki Mukoyama got the ball rolling with a solo home run over the wall in left in his first at-bat of the series. A couple of two-out RBIs later in the inning on a perfectly executed hit-and-run and a run-scoring, quickly put the U.S. in a 3-0 hole.
The red, white, and blue wasn’t about to go quietly though with a long sacrifice fly by Bryant Packard (ECU) plating the team’s first run in the bottom of the sixth. The next batter then tied the game as Stott (UNLV) launched a towering moonshot down the right-field line and into the train yard beyond the wall for a two-run home run that brought the game back to even at 3-3.
Vaughn then gave the U.S. its first lead of the day in the seventh with a two-RBI double to left. Although Japan got one of those runs back in the top of the eighth, Fletcher responded in the home half of the stanza with what would turn out to be a critical two-run longball over the wall in right.
With a 7-4 lead and two outs in the ninth, Team USA looked well on its way to victory, but Japan had other ideas. After a walk put runners on the corners, Japan pinch-hitter Ryosuke Aizawa punched a seeing-eye single into right. Two U.S. throwing errors later, he stood on third as the potential tying run as both runners on base crossed the plate to cut the Team USA lead down to one.
Meyer was able to buckle down, however, inducing a pop-out to Stott at short two batters later to seal the win and the series victory.
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USA Baseball CNT Manager Paul Mainieri
(On the team’s offensive effort on Sunday)
“We had a great opportunity early in the game that we squandered with the bases loaded and nobody out, so it seemed like more of the same as the first three games. But we finally came to life. First of all, in that inning Shea Langeliers just missed a two-run homer by a couple of feet and we ended up not scoring so I felt like we were a little bit snake-bit right there. Later on, we were able to come through with some big ones though. Bryson Stott obviously had the big home run to tie the ball game right after Bryant Packard came up big off the bench with a long sacrifice fly for our first run. I thought it was going to go off the wall, but their guy made a great catch. Then Andrew Vaughn, who in all honesty has been struggling in this series, came up with a big two-run double. We got a lucky bounce and then, of course, Fletcher’s two-run homer. We thought that was icing on the cake, but it turned out to be critical.”
(On the key to the victory Sunday)
“It was great to see us swing the bats a little bit better and hit in the clutch, but for me the key to the game was Parker Caracci. Him coming in and doing what he did was huge, especially his last few innings. He only threw six pitches to get through one of his innings, so his pitch count didn’t get elevated. Then Matt Cronin was awesome. Max (Meyer) didn’t have his best game today but they started running all those left-handed pinch hitters in there and his slider isn’t quite as effective against lefties. Then we had that one crazy play to make it a one-run game but, at the end of the day, he was able to get that last out and that is what closers are supposed to do.”
(On winning the series against Japan)
“Winning a series against Japan is really hard. I have so much respect for them, just the way they go about their business, the way they work, the fundamentals they play the game with. They are a very well managed team so to win three consecutive games after losing the first one says a lot about our guys, but every single game has been a hard-fought nail-biter. We expect tomorrow will be more of the same even though we have won the series. We still want to play to win every day.”
(On Japan starting pitcher Wataru Matsumoto)
“We struck out 16 times in seven innings against him the other day, so we made a lot of improvement against him. He is a warrior out there. If he was a college kid in the United States he is a clear first-round draft choice. He is really something. He has pitchability with great stuff, but our guys battled him hard. We got some hits today and had some tough at-bats against him. Even when we weren’t scoring runs early in the game, we were forcing him to throw an awful lot of pitches and he was pitching on only three days’ rest. I think he started to get a little fatigued at the end, but it was key that we made him throw so many pitches even when he was getting us out.”
(On playing the finale at SunTrust Park)
“We were so disappointed to get rained out last night in Charleston because it is a beautiful ballpark and we were excited about playing. We really wanted to have a day off before going to Cuba but the opportunity to play in a Major League stadium kind of lifts the guys up. I think they were willing to give up the off day to play in a Major League park and I think they are really looking forward to it.”
USA Baseball Shortstop Bryson Stott
(On hitting a home run in the series-clinching win over Japan)
“It is awesome. That team over there is really good or they wouldn’t have come this far to play. They obviously don’t like to lose so to be up in that situation and come through for our team was pretty cool.”
(On playing for Team USA)
“It is unmatched. Wearing these three letters is something I will never take for granted and remember for the rest of my life. Doing it with this group of guys and representing our country is something none of us will ever forget. Being able to win a series against Japan is something we are really proud of and now we want to go down and win a series in Cuba too.”