Franco’s Big Day Propels Team USA Past Peru in World Cup Qualifier Opener

Grand slam in third highlights three-hit day for Franco in 13-0 win

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – Noah Franco (Downey, Calif.) had a perfect day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a grand slam to help Team USA beat Peru, 13-0, in the opening game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier on Friday night at Estadio Leonardo Gastelum in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

With the win, the U.S. begins the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier Opening Round with a 1-0 record.

Leading 2-0 in the bottom of the third, Franco came to the plate and changed the game with one swing, blasting a grand slam to straightway center field and growing Team USA’s advantage to six. Franco’s slam was the first of two homers in the inning, as PJ Morlando (Summerville, S.C.) later turned on a pitch and cranked it deep over the right-field wall to cap a nine-run outburst and give Team USA a 10-0 lead. Franco added two other hits in the victory, singling off the wall in the second and doubling to center field in the fourth.

Austin Nye (Roseville, Calif.) and Morlando were also forces at the plate for the U.S, each driving in two runs. Daniel Arambula (Yucaipa, Calif.), Franco, and Morlando all scored twice in the win, combining for six of the team’s 13 total runs. Casey Borba (Santa Ana, Calif.) and Nazzan Zanetello (Florissant, Mo.) also added a hit and RBI apiece.


  • Three Peru hitters reached base in the top of the first, but a pickoff by Campbell Smithwick and two big outs by Ford Thompson got the U.S. out of the frame unscathed.
  • After walking and advancing to third on a Casey Borba single, Campbell Smithwick scored on a balk to give Team USA a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
  • Despite Peru putting runners in scoring position with only one out in the top of the third, Ford Thompson wiggled out of trouble to maintain the United States’ one-run lead.
  • PJ Morlando scored on a bases-loaded error in the bottom of the third, growing the U.S. lead to two.
  • With the bases full and one out in the bottom of the third, Noah Franco cranked a grand slam to straightaway center field as Team USA’s advantage became 6-0.
  • The stars and stripes took an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the third when both Talan Bell and Ty Southisene crossed home plate on a fielder’s choice by Casey Borba.
  • PJ Morlando crushed a two-run homer far over the wall in right field to drive in Casey Borba and extend Team USA’s lead to 10-0, capping a nine-run offensive outburst in the bottom of the third.
  • With two out and two on in the bottom of the fourth, Nazzan Zanetello legged out an infield single to drive in Team USA’s eleventh run of the night.
  • Austin Nye smoked a pinch-hit, two-run double in the bottom of the fourth to add a pair of runs and grow Team USA’s lead to 13-0.
  • Stunner Gonzales worked a scoreless fifth inning to secure the run-rule 13-0 victory for the United States.


  • Pitchers Stunner Gonzales and Ford Thompson combined to surrender just two hits in the opening-night victory, striking out nine.
  • Talan Bell, Noah Franco, and PJ Morlando all stole bases in the victory as the U.S. went a perfect 3-for-3 on the basepaths.
  • The stars and stripes drew six walks in the win. Roman Martin and Campbell Smithwick each reached twice via bases on balls.
  • Team USA sent 12 batters to the plate in its nine-run third inning, hitting two homers in the frame. Peru used four different pitchers in the inning.
  • The U.S. has now won 11 consecutive WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier games.
  • With the win, Team USA improves to 14-0 all-time in WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier opening games.
  • The stars and stripes are now 3-0 all-time against Peru at the U-18 level.

Team USA continues pool play on Saturday with a game against Puerto Rico. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. PT/7:00 p.m. ET from Estadio Leonardo Gastelum in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

To follow along with all the action with the 18U National Team, be sure to follow @USABaseball18U on Twitter and @USABaseball on FacebookInstagramTikTok, and Twitter.