August 8, 2014 - Arizona Fall League (AzFL) - Team USA
MAZATLAN, Mexico - The USA Baseball 15U National Team faced arguably its toughest test of the WBSC Â‘AA\' 15U World Cup Thursday night and passed with flying colors as it earned a tough 6-2 win over Venezuela to improve to 7-0. With the win, the U.S. is now the only remaining undefeated team in the tournament and controls its own destiny in its quest to play in Sunday\'s gold medal game.
After disposing of Cuba, 11-2, Wednesday night to open the second round, the U.S. had to refocus against a tough Venezuela squad that was sending big righty Maximo Castillo to the mound.
After three quick innings where the U.S. couldn\'t move a runner past first base, it got going in the fourth with a three-run frame. With one out, Alejandro Toral (Davie, Fla.) got Team USA started with a single to center field. Mark Vientos (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) followed with a walk and Raymond Gil (Miami, Fla.) brought them both home with a two-RBI double to left field on the first pitch he saw. After Gil advanced to third base on a wild pitch, catcher Cordell Dunn Jr. (Olive Branch, Miss.) grounded out to the shortstop to easily plate Gil and give the U.S. an early three-run cushion.
Things got a little sticky for the U.S. in the top of the seventh inning as Venezuela made a comeback. After a lead-off walk, one run scored on a bizarre play where third baseman Gil and leftfielder Steven Williams (Albany, Ga.) both record fielding errors on the same grounder. A wild pitch moved the runner over to third and a single from pinch hitter Lenyn Sosa later in the inning trimmed the U.S. margin to just one at 3-2. However, with the go ahead run at the plate, reliever Doug Nikhazy (Ocoee, Fla.) induced a ground out to end the threat.
In one of the few tense moments of the tournament so far for Team USA, the red, white and blue answered with authority in the seventh by plating three runs and putting the game away. Back-to-back walks to open the inning sent Castillo to the showers after 103 pitches and brought in Jose Orta. The new pitcher made a game-changing mistake the first batter he faced as he scooped up a beautiful bunt attempt by Blake Paugh (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and threw it into right field to allow both Royce Lewis (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) and Brice Turang (Corona, Calif.) to score and make the score, 5-2. Two batters later with Paugh on third, Vientos singled through the left side to bring home Paugh and give the game its final margin.
Reliever Ryan Vilade (Frisco, Texas) came in for the final two innings to put the finishing touches on another outstanding night for Team USA pitching. Vilade only needed 20 pitches to motor through six outs as he allowed just one hit. His performance was only topped by the dandy performance that U.S. starter Kristofer Armstrong put together in front of a good crowd at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal. The Jupiter, Fla., native only threw 64 pitches in six innings of work, allowing one hit, no runs and no walks while striking out a game-high seven.
For the game, Venezuela mustered just three hits, a walk and two unearned runs.
At the plate, Turang upped his average to .615 for the tournament by going 4-for-4 with a walk and run scored in the lead-off spot. Gill also had a big night with a pair of hits and RBI and a run scored.
Team USA continues second-round action at 10 a.m. MT (12 p.m. ET) Friday as it battles Chinese Taipei (6-1). Chinese Taipei will look to rebound after suffering a 3-2 loss to Cuba Thursday morning. Fans can follow the action through live stats (link on USABaseball.com), Twitter (@USABaseball15U) or the video stream through internetv.tv that is $7.50 for the entire tournament.