TAIPEI, Taiwan – Team USA broke through for four runs in the fifth inning to get past Korea, 5-1, in its second game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Super Round on Friday afternoon at Tianmu Baseball Stadium.
The U.S. is now 5-2 overall in tournament play and 2-2 in the Super Round, per WBSC tournament regulations. Korea falls to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the Super Round.
After being shut out by Chinese Taipei in Thursday’s Super Round opener, the U.S. was held off the scoreboard for the first four innings on Friday before breaking through with a two-out rally in the fifth. With Team USA trailing by a run, Carter Johnson (Oxford, Ala.) singled before a fly out recorded the second out of the inning. Konnor Griffin (Florence, Miss.) then notched a single of his own to set the table for Derek Curiel (West Covina, Calif.), who snuck a hard ground ball down the right field line to plate two and give the stars and stripes a 2-1 advantage.
Levi Clark (Marietta, Ga.) followed by drawing a walk, and two stolen bases put runners on second and third for PJ Morlando (Summerville, S.C.). The cleanup man delivered, hitting a two-run single past the outstretched arms of Korea’s Anseok Jeong as Team USA’s lead became 4-1 in the fifth. The U.S. added an insurance run in the sixth and Trey Gregory-Alford (Colorado Springs, Colo.) got the final six outs to shut the door on the United States’ first Super Round win.
Ethan Schiefelbein (Corona, Calif.) started on the mound for Team USA and was dominant for the second time this tournament. He turned in five innings and allowed just four hits and one run, striking out four and not walking a single batter. Gregory-Alford got Schiefelbein out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth and then pitched a perfect seventh to earn the six-out save. Junseo Hwang started for Korea and surrendered four runs in 4.2 innings to suffer the loss.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Back-to-back singles by Nolan Traeger (Spring, Texas) and Bryce Rainer (Simi Valley, Calif.) loaded the bases for the U.S. with just one out in the second but Korea starter Hwang got two big outs to keep the game scoreless.
- Korea finally got to Schiefelbein after three hitless innings, scoring on a two-out RBI single by Hyunmin Cho to take a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
- Singles by Johnson and Griffin put two on for Curiel with two outs in the fifth and he delivered, doubling down the right field line and giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
- After Clark drew a walk to keep the fifth inning alive, Morlando lined a two-run single to right center field as the United States’ dugout erupted and its advantage grew to three.
- An error and single put two on with no outs in Korea’s half of the sixth; Gregory-Alford came in from the bullpen and made quick work of the next three batters to maintain the 4-1 lead.
- The U.S. put together two team at-bats in the sixth, resulting in a sacrifice fly by Rainer to plate Coy James (Advance, N.C.) and make it a 5-1 advantage for the stars and stripes.
- Gregory-Alford came back out for the top of the seventh and retired the side in order to earn his third save of the tournament and finish off the 5-1 win.
- Six different players in the U.S. lineup recorded a hit, led by Curiel and Morlando, who each had two RBIs.
- Morlando has recorded a hit in six of Team USA’s seven games in tournament play and is now batting .353.
- Schiefelbein and Gregory-Alford showed great command in Friday’s win, not walking a single batter while striking out six.
- Over two starts, Schiefelbein has permitted just one run with 12 strikeouts in nine innings pitched.
- Gregory-Alford’s three saves lead all pitchers at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup. Noah Franco (Downey, Calif.) sits second with two.
- The United States’ record against Korea at the U-18 level improves to 13-9 all-time.
Team USA wraps up WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Super Round play on Saturday, taking on Puerto Rico with first pitch set for 10:00 a.m. local/10:00 p.m. ET (Sept. 8). Catch all the action from Tianmu Baseball Stadium by watching live on Gametime.sport.