AUCKLAND, New Zealand – In the opening round of the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship playoffs, the USA Men’s Fastpitch National Team fell to Argentina 9-2 in five innings on Friday, ending their hopes of medaling. The Americans led much of the game but an eight run, fourth inning for the South American team propelled them to the eventual run-rule victory.
“We played well defensively for the first three innings of the game,” said USA head coach Pete Turner. “We scored the two runs early and did a good job of shutting things down anytime they got runners on base. But, when you’re playing a good team like Argentina if you give them some breathing room things can escalate quickly and that’s exactly what happened in the fourth.”
As the visiting team on the scoreboard, Team USA batted first and jumped ahead early. With one out in the top of the first, Chase Turner (San Jose, Calif.) hit a double to get things started and Matt Palazzo (Des Moines, Iowa) followed him up with his fourth homerun of the tournament. This one a bomb over the left field fence giving Team USA the 2-0 lead.
Argentina responded in the bottom half of the inning as lead-off batter Fernando Petric D’Agostino scored from second when Bruno Motroni hit a single off of USA starting pitcher Travis Price (Orange, Calif.) to make it a 2-1 game.
The score held through the second and third innings as both teams struggled to get much going offensively. Team USA went three up, three down in the top of the fourth setting the stage for an Argentina rally.
In the bottom half of the inning, Argentina started their at-bat by sandwiching a walk with two base hits to load the bases. USA’s Josh Johnson (Brooklyn, Wis.), who had entered the circle in the third, then walked in Argentina’s second run, tying the game at two. A double in the next at-bat scored two more runs for the home team prompting USA to make their third pitching change of the day.
Gerald Muizelaar (Grand Forks, ND) entered the circle in an effort to end the inning but the right hander walked the first batter he faced, again loading the bases for Argentina. A run scoring, single in the next at-bat was quickly followed by a bases-clearing grand slam that extended the Argentina lead to 9-2. Muizelaar was able to retire the next two batters to finally end the inning.
Trailing by seven, Team USA needed at least one run in the top of the fifth to avoid a run rule. Adam LaLonde (Ashland, Ky.) managed a single, but it wasn’t enough as the American’s came up short as a ground ball to second and two fly outs to left field end the inning and the game.
With the loss, Team USA is eliminated from the 2013 ISF World Championship with an overall record of 4-4. Argentina will advance to face the loser of tonight’s game between Canada and Venezuela on Saturday. Get recaps of all of the USA Men’s National Team’s 2013 games at www.USASoftball.com.