LOS CABOS, Mexico – The 18U National Team looks to remain unbeaten at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier on Sunday against Venezuela. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. ET at Estadio Leonardo Gastelum in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
LAST TIME OUT
Team USA jumped out to a quick start, scoring six runs in the top of the first en route to a 15-2 win over Puerto Rico on Saturday. After PJ Morlando opened the scoring with an RBI double, Noah Franco set the tone for the rest of the game was a three-run homer to give the U.S. a 5-0 lead. The stars and stripes continued scoring all game long, getting multi-hit games from Ty Southisene and Nazzan Zanetello. Franco, Roman Martin, Morlando and Zanetello all drove in multiple runs in the win.
Mason Brassfield started for the U.S. on Saturday and tossed three innings of two-run ball, working around a hit and five walks. Talan Bell and Vaughn Neckar threw the final two innings for Team USA and combined to shut out the Puerto Ricans in those two frames.
HISTORY AGAINST VENEZUELA
In 18 meetings at the U-18 level, the United States is 15-3 all-time against Venezuela. The first game between the two countries was in 1992, which resulted in a 9-2 victory for Venezuela. The two sides last met at the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, when the U.S. picked up a 12-3 win.
FRANCO ON FIRE
Noah Franco has been a force in the U.S. lineup through the first two games of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. Franco has hit two homers and driven in seven runs, leading the tournament in both categories. He is batting .800 (4-for-5) through the two games, also hitting a double.
Team USA's pitching staff has been dominant in the earlygoings of the tournament, pitching to a 1.80 ERA through two games. The group has struck out 15 batters in 10 innings, led by Stunner Gonzales' five punch outs. Four of the five pitchers to take the mound for the stars and stripes have not allowed a run.
The U.S. has won each of the last five U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifiers it has competed in, earning gold in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2018 while compiling a 41-1 overall record. The program most recently captured gold in the event with a perfect 9-0 record in 2018, outscoring its opponents 131-27.
United States (2-0)
Puerto Rico (1-1)
INSIDE THE ROSTER
Team USA’s 20-man roster features four members who have previously donned the stars and stripes. A trio of players reunite on the roster after earning spots on the 15U National Team: Carson Messina, Austin Nye, and Michael Torres. Additionally, Daniel Arambula (2017) and Torres (2018) played for the 12U National Team, both winning gold medals.
In total, 10 of the 20 players on the roster have participated in USA Baseball development programs, including eight players from the 2022 16U/17U National Team Development Program (NTDP). Arambula, Talan Bell, Matthew Champion, Noah Franco, PJ Morlando, Vaughn Neckar, Ford Thompson, and Torres all participated at this year’s NTDP from July 25-29 in Cary, North Carolina. The roster also includes four players who participated in the 2022 Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League: Casey Borba, Roman Martin, Campbell Smithwick and Nazzan Zanetello.
MEET THE COACHES
Denny Hocking is back at the helm of the 18U National Team after guiding the U.S. to a gold medal at this summer’s WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. The skipper, who owns 13 years of major-league playing experience, has spent time as an analyst, coach, and minor-league manager, and currently works as an analyst on Bally Sports West.
Team USA alum and 14-year MLB veteran Brad Penny returns to the staff as pitching coach after serving in the same role for the program in a friendship series against Canada in 2021. The World Series champ and two-time MLB All-Star led last year’s staff to a 1.53 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 59 innings. Former 12U National Team Manager and longtime Orange Lutheran High School skipper Eric Borba is on staff as an assistant coach, as well as New York Yankees’ minor-league coach James Cooper.