SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – In the most exhilarating contest of the week, the 15U National Team defeated Puerto Rico, 12-3, to claim the 2023 International Friendly Series title at the Yaguate Baseball Complex, on Monday afternoon. Team USA concludes the series with an undefeated record of 5-0 while outscoring its opponents; 47-5.
Team USA is no stranger to strong starts and this contest was no exception. The stars and stripes scored five runs on seven hits across the first three innings and forced three Puerto Rican defensive miscues en route to the victory.
After Puerto Rico scored twice to make it a 5-3 affair through five complete, the United States felt for the first time, a sense of unease. With a runner on third and one away in the sixth, pitcher Jack Smejkal (The Woodlands, Texas) shook off the clamor from the Puerto Rican dugout and delivered a sinking ball that would change the tone of the contest. Batter, Geraniel Nieves, sent a high fly ball into foul territory along the third base line, and after Brady Harris (Saint Augustine, Fla.) made the extra effort play to secure the baseball for out number two, he then proceeded to throw the tagging runner out at home for the inning-ending double play.
Shortly after, Team USA’s bats came alive once more and delivered the final blow in the home half of the sixth. The squad exploded for seven runs on five hits, highlighted by two home runs, to put itself in the comfortable spot it has been used to heading into the final frame of the contest.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The United States came out of the gates hot, as an error that allowed James Tronstein (Los Angeles, Calif.) to score was followed up by an RBI base hit off the bat of Harris. One more run scored after Brody Jindra (Elkhorn, Neb.) tallied his first hit of the day with an RBI single to opposite field.
- Harris continued to see the ball well, as the left fielder sent a 1-2 pitch through the left side to score Tronstein and put Team USA up 4-0 after two innings.
- In a first for the U.S. this week, JC Pacheco (Wayne, N.J.) hammered a 2-2 offering over the left field wall for a leadoff homer in the third to make it 5-1.
- After a brief shortage of offense, Team USA was able to get the bats going in the sixth inning. With two baserunners on, Grady Emerson (Argyle, Texas) crushed a ball far beyond the right field wall for a three-run home run. Later that inning, Jorvorskie Lane Jr. (Fort Worth, Texas) found his groove and drove a ball to the center field wall for an RBI triple.
- Not done just yet, Pacheco homered for the second time, this one being another opposite field shot to make it 11-3. Jindra capped the scoring off by sliding home on a wild pitch after he reached via a triple to center field.
- This series marks the first time since 2018 that the 15U United States’ pitching staff finished below a 1.24 ERA, as the 2023 15U National Team secured a mind-boggling 1.16 ERA.
- The staff also broke the prior team record of least walks allowed, as the current staff only allowed 10 in the series compared to the previous low of 15 in 2013.
- Emerson, Harris, and Tronstein all collected at least one hit in each game while Drew Davis (Sumrall, Miss.), Jindra, and Harris each collected six or more RBIs in the series.
- Out of the 12 players who recorded at least four at-bats, eight compiled a batting average of .350 or higher.
- Out of the 47 runs the team scored in the series, Tronstein was responsible for a team-high 10 of those.