TAIPEI, Taiwan – The 18U National Team looks to bounce back from its first loss at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup, taking on Panama in Group B play. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. local/5:00 a.m. ET at Tianmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan.
LHP Matthew Champion (USA) vs. RHP Anthony Gantes (PAN)
LAST TIME OUT
The U.S. suffered its first loss of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup on Sunday night, falling in heartbreaking fashion to Japan, 4-3. Trailing 4-0 and down to its final out, Team USA rallied for three runs and got the tying run in scoring position before a strikeout ended the comeback threat. Coy James and Manny Marin collected RBI knocks in the last-minute rally, and Bryce Clavon scored on a wild pitch. Derek Curiel went 2-for-4 with a double to pace the stars and stripes offensively; PJ Morlando also collected a double.
On the mound, Cooper Williams was solid for Team USA. After a two-out, two-run triple put him in an early hole, the southpaw battled and finished his night with two perfect innings to toss four frames overall. Tegan Kuhns (2 ER, 2 IP) and Joey Oakie (0 ER, 1 IP) also got work in on the mound in the setback.
HISTORY AGAINST PANAMA
After first meeting at the 1987 World Junior Championship in Windsor, Ontario, the U.S. and Panama have since played one another 24 times at the U-18 level. Team USA holds a 23-2 all-time record against Panama, including its most recent 11-1 victory in the gold medal game of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. The two nations haven’t met at the WBSC U-18 World Cup since 2002, when the stars and stripes picked up a 21-2 win.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
Panama enters Monday’s contest with a 1-2 record in Group B play. After opening the World Cup with a commanding 13-4 win over Venezuela, it has suffered two consecutive setbacks: a 7-0 loss to Japan and a 4-3 defeat against the Netherlands. The squad is led offensively by Julio Cesar Casas Lopez, who is 4-for-9 with three RBIs through three games. Jose David Bernal Carrion also has three runs batted in for the Panamanians. On the mound, Panama owns a 3.85 team ERA and has a 15:10 K/BB ratio through 20 innings pitched.
INSIDE THE ROSTER
Nine players on the 2023 roster have previously played for Team USA. A trio of players from last year’s WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier squad return to the 18U National Team, as Matthew Champion, Noah Franco, and PJ Morlando all helped the U.S. win gold last November. In addition, three players from the 2021 15U National Team–Konnor Griffin, Ethan Schiefelbein, and Nolan Traeger–will reunite on this year’s roster, while two-time alum Jack McKernan and Coy James represent the 2022 15U squad. Bryce Rainer returns to Team USA and makes his second trip to Taiwan after playing for the 2017 12U team.
The 2023 Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League featured 17 members of this year’s team. The PDP League, which serves as the primary identification event for the 18U National Team, is an invitation-based development and assessment opportunity for high school players eligible for the following year’s MLB Draft. Additionally, 14 members of the squad have previously participated in USA Baseball’s development programs. Three athletes who participated in the 2023 16U/17U National Team Development Program (NTDP)–James, McKernan, and Joey Oakie–earned spots on the final 20-man squad. Eleven members of the 2022 16U/17U NTDP and four players from the 2021 16U/17U NTDP roster were also named to the team. In addition, James and McKernan both participated in the 2021 13U/14U Athlete Development Program (ADP).
ALUM AT THE HELM
Team USA manager Michael Cuddyer is only the second alumnus to play for and manage the 18U National Team, joining Jason Hisey, who played for the U.S. in 1987 and managed the squad in 2006. Cuddyer is a two-time 18U National Team alum, as he played for the program in both 1996 and 1997. In 1996, Cuddyer batted .367 with five RBIs on a roster that featured seven future big leaguers, including Rick Ankieland** Josh Bard**. Cuddyer then posted a .397 average with an .853 slugging percentage while leading the U.S. in home runs (7) and RBIs (26) at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1997.
GROUP B STANDINGS