Team USA drops pair of games in opening day of Intercontinental Cup

Aug. 28, 2018, 5:33 p.m. (ET)

Prague, Czech Republic — It was a tough opening day for the USA Softball Men’s National Team (MNT) as the U.S. went 0-2 at the Intercontinental Cup.  In their first game of the day, Team USA grabbed a first-inning lead but could not hold on in a 5-4 (eight inning) loss to Denmark before falling 7-0 (five innings) to reigning World Champions New Zealand.

“In our first game we were very impatient at the plate,” said Head Coach Gregg Leather (Staten Island, N.Y.).  “We chased a lot of balls out of the zone and we left a lot of guys on base.  Some opportunities just slipped away.  Against New Zealand, we had some good at-bats, but they’re the World Champions for a reason.  We had some good hacks against a pitcher who had a really good outing in the circle.”

 

Game One: USA 4, Denmark 5 (eight innings)

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Team USA jumped out to an early 1-0 lead but was unable to stave off a hot-hitting Denmark, eventually falling 5-4 in extra innings. 

Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.) got the offense going with a single to left and moved to second on a Tyler Dudley (Battle Creek, Mich.) single to right field with two outs.  A walk to Jeff Nowaczyk (Midland, Mich.) loaded the bases for Team USA before Ochoa scored on a wild pitch to put the Red, White and Blue up by one early.  That lead did not last long as Denmark drove in a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame after a leadoff single, double and another single.

Trailing by two through the next two at-bats, the U.S. tied the game in the top of the fourth with Nowaczyk reaching on a walk for the second time in the contest.  Moving to third base on a double from Matt Ratliff (American Fork, Utah), Nowaczyk scored on a sac fly from Kevin Castillo (Long Beach, Calif.) to make it a 2-2 ballgame.

Denmark regained a one-run lead in the bottom of the fourth for the third lead exchange of the contest, but Team USA responded once again in the top of the fifth with another run.  Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.) singled and was lifted for Marcus Tan (Union City, Calif.), who entered the game as a pinch runner.  Tan used his speed on the base paths, scoring from first on a double from Ochoa to tie it up at three runs apiece.

The score stayed tied at 3-3 through the next two innings to force the game into extras.  With Matt Palazzo (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) as the International Tiebreaker (ITB) runner on second, a popup and strikeout looked to keep the U.S. from doing any damage.  An intentional walk to Ratliff put two on for Patrick Sagdal (Richland, Wash.), who dropped a fly ball in just in front of the centerfielder, scoring Palazzo and giving the Red, White and Blue the 4-3 edge.

With the U.S. three outs away from a win, a leadoff walk put two on for Denmark before a mishandled sac bunt loaded the bases with no outs.  A single up the middle plated one run for Denmark and looked to score another, but Sagdal fired a laser of a throw to home to get the would-be game winner in an extra-base attempt.  With one out, a double in the next at-bat delivered the game-winning run for Denmark.

Ochoa had a multi-hit performance for Team USA, going 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored.  In the circle, Joel Cooley (St. Paul, Minn.) suffered the loss, tossing every pitch of the game with three strikeouts and two earned runs.

Game Two: USA 0, New Zealand 7 (five innings)

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In their final contest of the day, the U.S. dropped a 7-0 decision to New Zealand.  The Red, White and Blue bats could not catch up to a strong performance in the circle by New Zealand’s Nik Hayes, who dished out 11 strikeouts.

Palazzo was the sole U.S. base runner in the first inning after reaching on a bobbled grounder to second base, but a foul tip out recorded the third out of the at-bat.  Jon Gwizdala (Bay City, Mich.) earned his first international start in his Team USA career, quickly issuing a strikeout before a line drive to center put one on.  With the runner called out for leaving the base early, the U.S. looked to get out of the inning unscathed before a solo home run put New Zealand up by one.

A pair of strikeouts and a ground out retired the U.S. in order in the top of the second and a leadoff home run by New Zealand extended their lead to two runs in the bottom of the frame.

Both sides threatened through the next two innings but the ballgame held at a 2-0, New Zealand advantage until the bottom of the fifth.  Gwizdala retired the first batter of the at-bat with a strikeout and a fly ball to Sagdal in center recorded out number two, but a walk and hit batter started a two-out rally for New Zealand.  A pair of singles to left field brought in three runs for the Black Sox to prompt a pitching change as Cooley entered for Gwizdala.  A single to right field plated another two runs, ending the game via the run-rule with Team USA suffering the 7-0, shutout loss.

Ochoa and Tan recorded the only two hits of the contest for the Red, White and Blue.  Gwizdala suffered the loss, having a five-strikeout performance in the circle in his four and two-third innings.   

Team USA returns to the field tomorrow for a 10:30 a.m. CEST (3:30 a.m. CT) match against No. 4 Argentina.  All games will be live streamed for free while free live stats are also available for fans to follow along with the action at USASoftball.com.

About USA Softball

USA Softball is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit organization headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is designated as the National Governing Body (NGB) of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 69 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 150,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2 million.  USA Softball is dedicated to providing people of all ages the opportunity to play the game they love at a variety of levels by offering recreational, league, tournament and competitive play for fast pitch, slow pitch and modified pitch.  USA Softball annually conducts thousands of tournaments throughout the country including over 100 National Championships.  The USA Softball umpire program is among the nation’s largest and are widely known as the best trained umpires in the game. As the NGB for the sport of softball, USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, World Championships and other international and domestic events. For more information on USA Softball, including its founding and history as the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), please visit, www.USASoftball.com.