LA PAZ, Mexico – Team USA rode a five-run first inning to a 5-2 victory over Panama in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier Super Round opener on Thursday afternoon at Estadio Arturo C. Nahl in La Paz, Mexico.
The United States is now 5-0 in tournament play and 3-0 in the Super Round, per WBSC tournament rules.
The U.S. offense was dialed in from the first pitch, reaching base with seven of its first eight hitters and forcing Panama to use three pitchers in the opening frame. Ty Southisene (Henderson, Nev.) got the rally started with an infield single before he scored on a balk to make it 1-0, and PJ Morlando (Summerville, S.C.) followed with an RBI double to put Team USA in front by two. Then, with the bases loaded, Macon Winslow (Hertford, N.C.) hit a two-run single and Noah Franco (Downey, Calif.) scored on a wild pitch to make it a 5-0 advantage for the United States, a lead it would hold on to despite a late Panama rally in the seventh.
Three of Team USA’s five hits came in the five-run first inning, including Winslow’s two-run single. The left fielder reached in all three of his plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs. Five different U.S. players scored runs in the win, including Morlando, who collected a hit and an RBI in Team USA’s busy first inning. Southisene did a little bit of everything for the United States, notching a hit, stealing a base, and scoring a run.
Despite walking 10 batters, U.S. pitchers held Panama to just two runs on three hits. Talan Bell (Oviedo, Fla.) started for Team USA and pitched three shutout innings with three strikeouts. The southpaw danced around trouble in each of his three frames, coaxing two key double plays to keep Panama off the board. Vaughn Neckar (Wildomar, Calif.) struck out three in two scoreless relief innings to earn the win, and Panama starter Adrian Ardines–who only got one out and allowed three earned runs–suffered the loss.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Ty Southisene led off the game with an infield single and, after stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch, came home on a balk to score the first run of the contest.
- With Casey Borba on second and one out in the top of the first, PJ Morlando put Team USA in front by two with an RBI double down the right field line.
- Macon Winslow poked a two-run single through the right side with the bases loaded in the top of the first, plating two runs and growing Team USA’s lead to four.
- The U.S. capped its five-run inning when Noah Franco sprinted home on a wild pitch to make it a 5-0 game in the top of the first.
- Panama put runners on in both the second and third innings, but a double play erased the threat in the second and a Talan Bell pickoff helped Team USA maintain its five-run edge in the third.
- Panama’s Derek Pinto hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth to put Panama on the scoreboard and trim the U.S. lead to 5-1.
- A walk and hit-by-pitch put two on with none out for Panama in the bottom of the fifth, but Vaughn Neckar picked up a strikeout and Campbell Smithwick caught a runner stealing to turn a key double play and escape the jam.
- With the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate for Panama in the bottom of the sixth, Vaughn Neckar got a clutch strikeout to keep Team USA in front by four.
- Panama drew three walks and scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh but Matthew Champion recorded the final out on a fielder’s choice to finish the 5-2 victory.
- PJ Morlando has at least one hit and one RBI in all five of Team USA’s games at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier.
- Both PJ Morlando and Ty Southisene scored a run in the win and are now tied atop the tournament leaderboard in that category.
- By drawing a walk in the victory, Michael Torres is now tied for most bases-on-balls in the tournament with seven.
- With Talan Bell’s three scoreless innings, U.S. starters have allowed just four earned runs in 15 innings on the mound for a 2.40 ERA.
- The stars and stripes have drawn at least six walks in all five of their tournament games.
- Team USA has scored three or more runs in an inning 10 times in tournament play, including its five-run first on Thursday.
- The U.S. has now won 18 consecutive games against Panama at the U-18 level.
Team USA continues WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier Super Round play against Mexico on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT/9:00 p.m. ET at Estadio Arturo C Nahl in La Paz, Mexico.