GAMEDAY: Team USA Meets Korea in World Cup Bronze Medal Game

First pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m. local/2:00 a.m. ET (Friday) at Tianmu Baseball Stadium


TAIPEI, Taiwan – The 18U National Team finishes play at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup with the bronze medal game against Korea on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. local/2:00 a.m. ET at Tianmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei, Taiwan.


RHP Taekyon Kim (KOR) vs. LHP Cooper Williams (USA)


Team USA dropped its Super Round finale on Saturday, falling in a close 4-3 defeat to Puerto Rico. Despite carrying a lead into the late innings, the U.S. bullpen allowed a pair of runs in the sixth and seventh frames and the bats could not rally in the loss. Team USA scored first in Saturday’s game, plating a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by PJ Morlando. Puerto Rico answered with a run in the top of the third to tie it, but the U.S. responded in the bottom half with Konnor Griffin’s RBI triple and Derek Curiel’s sac fly to regain a 3-2 lead. However, a wild pitch in the sixth and a Puerto Rico sac fly in the seventh put the U.S. behind and it was unable to muster anything off of reliever Jarrette Bonet.

Levi Sterling started for the U.S. and was solid, tossing 4.1 innings and allowing two runs. Sterling finished the tournament with a 1.86 ERA in 8.1 frames and walked just one batter. Jack McKernan suffered the loss on Saturday by yielding two runs in two innings. Konnor Griffin got the final outs on the mound for the U.S.


The United States has competed in five bronze medal games at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup. Picking up its first bronze medal win in 1986, the team has gone 4-1 overall in the third-place contest. The U.S. and Korea have played one another on two separate occasions in the bronze medal game; Team USA won the first meeting in 1996, and Korea took home bronze in the most recent matchup in 2004.


At the U-18 level, the United States and Korea have played one another 22 times. Team USA owns a slight series advantage over Korea, posting a 13-9 all-time record. The series began when the U.S. earned a 7-5 victory over Korea in the opening game of the 1988 World Junior Championships, while the most recent meeting was a 5-1 win for the U.S. in game two of the Super Round. The two nations have met in the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup bronze medal game twice, each winning one of those matchups.


Korea enters the bronze medal matchup fresh off a 3-1 win over the Netherlands in its Super Round finale, which secured its spot in Sunday’s bronze game. Korea emerged from Group A as the number two seed for Super Round play after going 4-1, suffering an opening game loss to Chinese Taipei and then rattling off four wins in a row. The squad dropped its first two Super Round games (7-1 vs. Japan and 5-1 vs. Team USA) before Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Netherlands.

The team is currently led at the plate by Hyunmin Cho, who is batting .350 (7-for-20) with a double, eight RBIs, and four runs scored. Yulyee Lee, who owns a .263 average (5-for-19), ranks second in the team with six RBIs and is tied for first with four runs scored. On the mound, Korea owns a 2.25 ERA with an astounding 77 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched. Sunday’s starter, Taekyon Kim, is 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA with 20 punch outs in nine innings of work.


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).


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 Ankiel and 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.


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