Ritch Price and US National Team Defeat Cuba, 4-1

July 14, 2008

HAARLEM, The Netherlands –

Jared Clark’s leadoff home run in the top of the sixth broke a 1-1 tie, and Kendal Volz (Baylor; Bulverde, Texas) notched his fifth save of the tournament as the USA Baseball National Team defeated Cuba 4-1 Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the 24th Haarlem Baseball Week at Pim Mullier Stadium.

Team USA improved to 14-0 on the 2008 tour with the win and finished 7-0 in the Haarlem Baseball Week. The team fielded by Cuba for Haarlem Baseball Week was the same roster minus one player from Cuba’s 2006 silver-medal World Baseball Classic and 2004 gold-medal Athens Olympic Games teams.

It also is the same team that will compete in the Games of the 29th Olympiad next month in Beijing. Sunday’s victory marked the first time in recorded history that a United States Collegiate National Team has defeated the Cuba Olympic Team in a tournament title game. Furthermore, it was Team USA’s second win over Cuba in an eight-day span after a 1-0 victory last Sunday.

In both victories over Cuba at Haarlem Baseball Week, the U.S. pitching dominated the game. And in both games, Mike Minor (Vanderbilt; Chapel Hill, Tenn.) and Volz earned the win and save, respectively. The U.S. pitching staff held Cuba to no earned runs on 10 hits with 16 strikeouts over 18.0 innings on the week.

Sunday, Minor allowed one unearned run on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts over 6.0 innings. Four of Minor’s six strikeouts came consecutively against the final two batters of the first inning and the first two batters of the second inning.

A two-out error allowed Cuba to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. With runners at first and second, Alfredo Despaigne lined a single to left. It was hit so sharply that the runner from second did not round third; however, U.S. left fielder Josh Fellhauer (Cal State Fullerton; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) misplayed the ball, allowing the run to score. That lead did not last long as Team USA got out of the inning on the very next pitch when first baseman Clark made a diving snag on a line drive in foul territory for the third out. Blake Smith (California; Modesto, Calif.) led off the top of the fifth with a solo home run, tying the game.

After fouling off three two-strike pitches, Smith connected on a 2-2 curveball; it hit the top of the right-field wall and caromed over the wall for a home run. Clark (Cal State Fullerton; Castaic, Calif.), who joined the National Team last Friday, blasted a 2-0 fastball well over the wall in left-center to open the top of the sixth. That gave Team USA a lead it would never relinquish. Cuba threatened in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners at first and second with one out thanks to a walk and a single.

Kyle Gibson (Missouri; Greenfield, Ind.) entered the game and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. However, Gibson and Team USA got out of the inning unscathed on a second-to-short-to-first double play. Team USA added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech; Parma, Ohio) had a pinch-hit single to open the inning, and pinch-runner Scott Woodward (Coastal Carolina; Markle, Ind.) beat out a throw to second on Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Both runners advanced one base on a wild pitch, and Cuba intentionally walked Micah Gibbs (LSU: Pflugerville, Texas) to load the bases.

Matt den Dekker grounded to first on the next pitch, but Cuba first baseman Yoandy Garlobo’s throw home was awry and two runs scored. Volz pitched a perfect ninth inning for his sixth save in as many chances on the 2008 tour; Volz recorded a save in five of Team USA’s seven victories at Haarlem Baseball Week. Cuba starter Adiel Palma did not factor in the decision. He allowed one run on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts over 4.2 innings.

Reliever Vicyohandri Odelin took the loss, allowing three runs, one earned, on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 3.2 innings. Christian Colon (Cal State Fullerton; Corona, Calif.), Mike Leake (Arizona State; Fallbrook, Calif.) and den Dekker all had two-hit games. Smith scored twice.

Monday is a travel day for the USA Baseball National Team, going to Regensburg, Germany. Team USA returns to action Tuesday against the German National Team. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT.