Junior Men defeat New Zealand

By Codi Warren | Nov. 06, 2012, 4:43 p.m. (ET)

PARANA, Argentina – The USA Softball Junior Men’s National Team guaranteed themselves a top-two seed in the playoffs of the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship by defeating New Zealand 5-4 today the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced. With the win, Team USA secures their best pool-play record for a USA Junior Men’s team since 1985 when the Americans went 6-1.

“This was a huge win for us,” said USA Head Coach Tim Lyon. “You have to beat upper echelon teams in order to be considered an upper echelon team. Today we showed everyone that we belong in that group.”

Jerlin Rutt (Bernville, Pa.) continued his tremendous play in the circle for Team USA. The right hander threw his third complete game of the tournament allowing just four runs on seven hits and only walking one New Zealand batter. Rutt moves to 3-0 in the tournament with the win.

After holding New Zealand to a three up, three down inning in the first, the Americans jumped on the board in the bottom of the inning with hits from their first three batters. From the lead-off spot, Tyler Johnson (Union, Mo.) grounded to short stop and beat out the throw and Justin Wurtz (New Haven, Mo.) followed him up with a single to left field. With the runners at first and second, Mauro Olivarria (San Diego, Calif.) hit a 1-0 pitch to the center field wall. Both runners scored and Olivarria made his way around to third. Three consecutive outs stranded Mauro on base but the damage had been done as USA lead 2-0 after the first inning.

New Zealand managed to get their first hit with two outs in the top of the second but failed to capitalize when the next batter grounded to third base for the third out of the inning.

In thebottom of the second, with a 1-0 count, Jonathan Lynch (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) hit a blooper into center field and was able to motor his way around for a double before New Zealand could get the ball in. In the next at-bat, Lynch advanced to third on a passed ball. With a 1-0 count, the New Zealand pitcher threw another ball in the dirt that skipped to the backstop and the speedy Lynch crossed home plate to make it 3-0.

Both teams added one to their hit count in the third but double plays for both kept any runs from crossing the plate in the inning.

With two down in the top of the fourth and a runner at second, New Zealand’s Campball Ngarina singled to right field to bring home New Zealand’s first run making it USA 3, New Zealand 1. The Americans grounded twice to second and struck out in the bottom half of the inning and the score held through four innings of play.

Rutt tightened things down in the top of the fifth as he retired the first three batters he faced to preserve the two-run advantage for Team USA. The Americans began the bottom half of the inning with the top of their lineup but again went three up, three down failing to add to their run total for the third consecutive inning.

New Zealand began the sixth inning with a single and two sacrifice hits later the runner had advanced to third. Two batters later, with a 1-0 count and runner in scoring position, Rutt’s pitched got passed catcher Austin Tuttle (Payson, Utah) and the New Zealand runner crossed home. A fly out to center field on the next pitched ended the half inning with New Zealand trailing by just one.

USA showed their mental toughness in the bottom of the sixth. Needing additional runs to pad their lead, the American batters took advantage of an error on the New Zealand third baseman and a dropped third strike to put runners at first and second. Two batters later, with one out and Michael Lewis (Amboy, Minn.) at the plate, the New Zealand pitcher threw two consecutive pass balls first advancing the runners a base and then scoring one and move the other to third. With a 2-1 count, Lewis then ripped a single to center field to bring home the fifth USA run. When the inning was complete, the USA Junior Men held a 5-2 lead.

With one more chance to match USA’s run total, New Zealand began the top of the seventh inning with a single and a double to give themselves runners on second and third with no outs. A ground ball to short stop gave the USA their first out of the inning. A deep fly ball to right field in the next at-bat dropped scoring one and leaving runners at first and third with just one out. A fly out to shallow center field gave Team USA their second out but a passed ball in the next at-bat was enough to bring home the New Zealand base runner from third. Clinging to a one-run lead and a 1-0 count with two outs, Jerlin Rutt delivered a strike that was popped high into center field for the final out and the Team USA escaped with the 5-4 win.

At 5-0, the USA Junior Men have just one remaining pool-play game on Wednesday, November 7 at 5:30 p.m. (CT), a matchup with 2008 defending ISF Junior Men’s World Champion Australia. Wednesday’s game will determine whether USA or Australia will enter bracket play as the number one seed from Pool A. Please visit www.USAsoftball.comto follow live stats and see photos from all of USA’s games at the ISF World Championship.