Men’s National Team drops 10-7 decision to Japan in final game of round robin action

By Codi Warren (cwarren@usasoftball.com) | Aug. 31, 2018, 5:37 p.m. (ET)

Prague, Czech Republic — A seventh-inning rally was not enough as the USA Softball Men’s National Team (MNT) dropped a 10-7 decision to No. 3 Japan in their final game of round robin action at the Intercontinental Cup.  Despite a strong performance at the plate in which four balls were sent out of the park, costly errors proved to be the downfall of the Red, White and Blue.

“We came out early, had a nice lead and things were looking pretty good,” said Head Coach Gregg Leather (Staten Island, N.Y.) “Tony was pitching well but we made quite a few defensive errors behind him.  They followed up our errors with hits, unfortunately, and they capitalized on that.  We came back a little late, but we earned every one of our runs and we didn’t make them earn every one of theirs and when you play a team like Japan you can’t do that. You have to make them earn everything that they get.”

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Japan threatened early in the top of the first inning after a leadoff single and walk put two on base with one out, but U.S. starter Tony Mancha (Las Cruces, N.M.) fanned the next two batters faced to end the threat.  Team USA’s bats came out on fire in the bottom half of the inning as the team jumped out to an early lead.  Jonathan Lynch (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) set the tone with a leadoff solo home run, his third of the tournament, and two batters later Matt Palazzo (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) continued the momentum with a triple down the right field line.  Tyler Dudley (Battle Creek, Mich.) brought Palazzo home with a single up the middle, making it a 2-0, U.S. favor after one complete inning.

Team USA added two more runs to their lead in their next at-bat after a leadoff walk to Chris Heinlein (Columbia, Mo.) and a two-run blast from Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.).  That lead held until the top of the fourth inning when Japan tied up the game.  An error on a ground ball put the leadoff runner on base and a two-run shot cut the U.S. lead in half.  Four-consecutive singles allowed another two runs to cross the plate for Japan, tying up the game at 4-4.

That score held until Japan’s next at-bat when they took the lead for good.  A pair of errors and two singles allowed two more runners to cross home plate, putting Japan up 6-4. That lead was extended in the top of the sixth inning after a leadoff single and double drove in another run.  The last two runs of the game for Japan came in their final at-bat in the top of the seventh inning.  Three singles and a double allowed another two batters to cross the plate, putting Japan up 10-4 and bringing Team USA to bat trailing by six runs.

The U.S. staged a late-inning rally in the bottom of the seventh as Lynch and Ochoa both hit solo shots for their second home runs of the contest.  The two blasts cut Japan’s lead to four runs, and Team USA continued to threaten as Palazzo and Jeff Nowaczyk (Midland, Mich.) both walked to put two on base with one out.  A fly ball to left field recorded the second out of the at-bat before Derrick Kennedy (San Antonio, Texas) dropped a fly ball in for a single to bring Palazzo home and make it a 10-7 ballgame.  A nicely fielded ground ball to third base, however, ended the game with Japan walking away victorious.

Lynch finished the contest with a 3-for-4 outing, driving in two runs and scoring twice while Ochoa had a 2-for-4 showing at the plate with three RBI and two runs scored.  Mancha suffered the loss, fanning seven batters while allowing just two earned runs in his four innings of work.  Joel Cooley (St. Paul, Minn.) entered in the fifth inning and struck out two batters while allowing four earned runs.

Team USA will now set their sights on a rematch against No. 11 Denmark tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. CEST (7:30 a.m. CT) in their lone game of playoff roundsAll 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.