TORONTO, Ontario, Canada — Despite some late inning heroics at the plate, Team USA was unable to overcome a second-inning solo home run that put Venezuela on top in a 1-0 loss at the 2015 Pan American Games. With the loss, the U.S. finished the Pan American Games with a 2-4 record, falling just one game shy of the medal rounds to finish in fourth place.
"I'm proud of our boys," said Head Coach Denny Bruckert (Gillespie, Ill.). "We had just as many chances today as Venezuela did to turn the tide in our favor, we just didn't get the breaks. We went through this tournament and faced everyone's ace and you're not going to score a lot of runs when you face pitching like that. Despite that, we showed that we can play with anybody. Everyone in the stands saw that. The future of this program is bright."
It was a battle from the pitching circle through the majority of the game as USA's Tony Mancha (Las Cruces, N.M.) and Venezuela's Ramon Jones came out strong in the top of the first inning. Both sides would get a runner on base in the first inning as Matt Palazzo (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) reached on a walk and Mancha issued a leadoff single, but both defenses stood behind their pitchers to keep the game scoreless.
Venezuela would hit the would-be game winning home run in the bottom of the second inning. Mancha came back on fire, however, issuing two strikeouts and a fly out to keep the game close as Venezuela took the 1-0 lead.
The U.S. was kept off the bases until the top of the fourth inning as Josh Johnson (El Paso, Texas) connected for a two-out double down the left field line but was stranded at second base with a groundout. Team USA would get another opportunity to plate a run in the top of the sixth inning when Derrick Zechman (Watsontown, Pa.) reached base on a walk and moved to second on a single from Palazzo. With two outs already in the inning, a groundout to the first basemen kept the U.S. off the board.
Down to their final at-bat, the U.S. looked to get a rally going with a pair of leadoff base runners. Chase Turner (San Jose, Calif.) started the charge with a double to shallow right field and advanced to second base when Kris Bogach (Huguenot, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch. A strikeout would keep the runners at bay before they advanced on a ground out from Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.). Down to their final out, Pat Sagdal (Richland, Wash.) drilled a hard ground ball right back at the pitcher, who snagged the ball at the last second to get the last out of the game.
"This team has a lot of heart and puts a lot of fight into everything we do," said Palazzo. "We kept battling and getting guys on base to give ourselves a shot. At the end of the day, we knew this was going to be a tough ball game. Both pitchers were on their game today so we had to take some chances and we did, unfortunately we just fell short."
Mancha earned the loss, giving up just one earned run through six innings of work while striking out seven batters.
Team USA finished the 2015 season with an 8-7 record and a team batting average of .206. Zechman led the U.S. offense, finishing with a .303 average, one home run and six RBI. For the pitching staff, the U.S. finished with a 2.24 ERA with a combined 140 strikeouts. Mancha led the staff, boasting a 1.93 ERA and 73 strikeouts through 50.2 innings of work.
About ASA/USA Softball
Founded in 1933, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA)/USA Softball is the National Governing Body Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, ASA/USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 74 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 165,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2.5 million. ASA/USA is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won nine World Championship titles as well as claimed eight World Cup of Softball titles. For more information about ASA/USA Softball, please visit http://www.asausasoftball.com/.