Lima, Peru – The U.S. Men’s National Team’s (MNT) run at the 2019 Pan American Games came to a close Thursday afternoon at the Campo de Softball, Complejo Deportivo Villa Maria del Triunfo after the team battled out of the third-place game to earn a spot in the Championship Game. After posting a 7-4 victory over world-ranked No. 9 Mexico, the U.S. could not overcome the strong pitching of reigning World Champion Argentina, falling 5-0 in the Gold Medal Game to finish in second place. The Silver Medal is the first for the Red, White and Blue since 2003, which ends a 16-year medal drought at a major international competition.
USA 7, Mexico 4
Team USA put up two runs in the bottom half of the first inning after Jeff Nowaczyk (Midland, Mich.) got the offense started, homering on a 3-2 count to make it 2-0. Mexico responded with a run of their own in the top of the second frame with a one-out solo shot, while the Red, White and Blue were kept silent through the bottom half of the inning.
Tying the game in the top of the third inning was Mexico who, after a leadoff single, hit one up the middle to give the runner an opportunity to cross the plate. The U.S. regained the lead in the bottom half of the frame as Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.) went yard to make it 3-2. Looking to continue Ochoa’s two-out offensive spark, Matt Palazzo (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) and Nowaczyk drew walks until a groundout to Mexico’s second baseman ended the at-bat.
Tony Mancha (Las Cruces, N.M.) got the fourth inning underway with back-to-back strikeouts before Mexico put two on with a pair of singles. Mancha then followed with his eighth strikeout of the game to strand the two and bring up the U.S. offense. Jonathan Lynch (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) homered to lead off the bottom of the fourth frame before Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.) followed suit with one of his own to extend the lead, 5-2.
Mexico walked and doubled with one out in the top of the fifth inning, but Mancha kept dealing from the circle and fanned another two batters to end the threat. Hitting his second homerun and the fifth of the game was Ochoa, who put the U.S. up by four runs for a 6-2 lead. Two outs later, Cam Schiller (Prescott, Ariz.) took first on a hit-by-pitch before a fly out closed out the fifth inning.
Mexico cut the lead in half with a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning, and an error by Mancha placed a runner on base, resulting in Duane Weiler (Richland, Pa.) entering the circle in relief. Issuing a strikeout to keep Mexico at bay and bring up the bottom of the sixth, Jenner Christiansen (Hayward, Calif.) led off with a walk before Mullins grounded into a fielder’s choice to keep him from moving up. A walk to Yusef Davis (Long Beach, Calif.) placed two on base, before Matt Ratliff (American Fork, Utah) singled on a groundball to left field to make it 7-4 in favor of the U.S. Ochoa drew his first walk of the game while a strikeout and fielder’s choice closed out the inning.
Three outs away, the U.S. MNT retired Mexico in order to secure the 7-4 victory and advance to the Gold Medal game. The Red, White and Blue tallied five home runs in the game, thanks to Nowaczyk, Mullins, Lynch and Ochoa’s two. Mancha issued 10 strikeouts in his five and two-thirds innings of work, allowing four runs on seven hits, while Weiler fanned one in his one and one-third inning of work.
USA 0, Argentina 5
Advancing to the Pan American Games Championship Game for the first time since 2003, the U.S. MNT succumbed to their third and final loss to reigning World Champions, Argentina, at the tournament. The Red, White and Blue fell behind early and managed just two hits off the strong pitching arm of Argentina’s Mata.
Retired in the top of the first inning on a groundout, fly out and strikeout, the U.S. sat down Argentina in order to keep both sides scoreless through the first frame.
Schiller singled on a hard ground ball to left field with one out in the top of the second inning however, a fly out and strikeout sent Argentina back to the plate where they capitalized on a couple base hits to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Ratliff singled on a ground ball and a walk to Ochoa with two outs put a pair of runners on base in the third inning before a groundout kept the U.S. from plating any runs. Weiler and the U.S. defense kept at it, retiring Argentina’s No. 2-3-4 hitters to return to the plate.
The U.S. would come up short and was retired through the next two innings while Argentina, despite a two-out single, was kept off the board until the bottom of the fifth frame where they plated two runs on four-straight singles. A sacrifice fly would give them a 5-0 advantage before the inning came to a close.
Argentina’s pitching and defensive plays stifled the U.S. offense through the next two innings, resulting in the Red, White and Blue earning the Silver Medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, the first for the U.S. since 2003. Ratliff and Schiller collected the two hits. Weiler tossed four and two-thirds innings, striking out eight and allowing five runs on eight hits, while Mancha struck out one in his one and one-third inning of work.
Held every four years, the U.S. has earned seven silver medals dating from 1979-2003, while falling just shy of the podium with a fourth-place finish at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. With the Silver Medal finish, Team USA has now earned eight silver medals since 1979.
Of the 15 athletes named to the Pan American Games roster, Kevin Castillo (Long Beach, Calif.), Mancha, Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.), Palazzo and Tan return from the 2015 Pan American Games squad. The U.S. team is led by Head Coach Leather, along with assistant coaches Ron Guzman (Salinas, Calif.), Greg Hicks (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Gerald Muizelaar (Grand Forks, N.D.). Leather and Hicks served as assistant coaches at the 2015 Pan American Games, while Muizelaar competed for the Red, White and Blue.