TAIPEI, Taiwan – Team USA scored four runs in the third inning and Trey Gregory-Alford (Colorado Springs, Colo.) earned a four-out save in a 6-4 win over Panama on Monday night in World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Group B play at Tianmu Baseball Stadium.
The win improves Team USA’s record to 3-1 in Group B. Panama is now 1-3 through its first four World Cup games.
Already leading by two entering the third, the U.S. put up a four-spot to extend its lead and pull away from Panama. The rally began when Derek Curiel (West Covina, Calif.) drew a walk in between singles by Coy James (Advance, N.C.) and PJ Morlando (Summerville, S.C.) to load the bases. Konnor Griffin (Florence, Miss.) then drove in one run on a fielder’s choice before another came home to score on an error to make it a 4-0 lead, and to cap it off, Noah Franco (Downey, Calif.) and Manny Marin (Miami, Fla.) smacked back-to-back hits to put the United States up by six.
Panama scored two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to creep within two runs at 6-4, but Gregory-Alford entered and slammed the door over the final 1.1 innings to secure the U.S. win.
James (2-for-4, 2 R) and Marin (2-for-3, RBI) each had two-hit games to pace Team USA offensively. Franco was all over the box score as well, going 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Griffin collected the only other RBI for the U.S. with his third-inning fielder’s choice.
Matthew Champion (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) was handed the ball to start for the stars and stripes. The right-hander pitched five innings of two-run ball to earn the win, working four shutout frames before allowing two in the fifth. Griffin entered in relief and nearly escaped a jam but allowed two runs, making way for Gregory-Alford take over and earn the four-out save.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- An infield single put James on to start the game and he eventually came home to score on a double steal to put the U.S. in front by a run in the first.
- Levi Clark (Marietta, Ga.) singled up the middle to begin Team USA’s second inning, later scoring on a throwing error to extend the early lead to 2-0.
- With the bases loaded and no outs in the third, Griffin reached on a fielder’s choice to bring home one run before a throwing error let another U.S. run cross home plate and make it a 4-0 score.
- Back-to-back two-out hits by Franco and Marin each plated a run to cap the four-run third and put the stars and stripes in front by six.
- Champion got through four shutout frames, but Panama finally scratched a pair across in the bottom of the fifth on RBI singles by Yeremy Sanchez and Julio Casas to make it 6-2 in favor of the United States.
- Panama scored twice more in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out, two-run single by Hector Rayo, but Gregory-Alford entered and picked up a big strikeout to keep Team USA’s lead at 6-4.
- Gregory-Alford returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh and worked around a leadoff walk to lock down the 6-4 U.S. victory.
- Marin’s two-hit day raised his tournament batting average to .500. The shortstop has a hit in all four games of the World Cup, including two doubles.
- James had two hits and scored twice in the win for the second time in the World Cup. The North Carolina native had an identical stat line in Saturday’s win over Spain.
- With his leadoff single in the second, Clark has now collected a hit in all three of his starts and is 3-for-6 in tournament play.
- Team USA can secure a spot in the Super Round ahead of its pool play finale if Japan beats Venezuela in this evening’s Group B matchup.
- The U.S. is now 24-2 all-time against Panama since the two clubs first met in 1987.
Team USA will wrap up the pool play portion of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup against Venezuela at 2:30 p.m. local/2:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Catch all the action from Tianmu Baseball Stadium by watching live on Gametime.sport.