Palazzo, Ochoa both homer in Men’s National Team 5-4 victory over No. 8 Venezuela; U.S. finishes fifth at WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship

June 23, 2019, 2:51 p.m. (ET)

PRAGUE – Matt Palazzo (Pleasant Hill, Iowa) and Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.) went yard to plate five runs for Team USA who went onto claim a 5-4 victory over world-ranked No. 8 Venezuela and finish fifth at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Men’s Softball World Championship (MSWC). Both teams climbed in the 2019 final World Championship standings compared to the 2017 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship, when the U.S. finished sixth overall with a 6-3 record.


“Overall I thought we played very well this week,” said Head Coach Gregg Leather (Staten Island, N.Y.). “It was disappointing not to medal but the guys didn’t carry that with them on the field in our placement games against Australia and Venezuela. It was important for us to finish with two victories over powerful teams heading into the Pan American Games.”


Team USA starter Tony Mancha (Las Cruces, N.M.) issued back-to-back strikeouts to begin the game and despite Venezuela reaching first on a walk, Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.) caught the runner stealing second to record the third out. In the bottom half of the first inning, Ochoa drew a one-out walk and was brought home courtesy of a two-run shot by Palazzo.


Jumping to an early 2-0 lead, the U.S. kept Venezuela off the board in the second with a pair of fly outs before Venezuela grounded into a fielder’s choice at third to strand the runners. Unable to add to their lead in the bottom of the second frame, Mancha and the U.S. defense went to work in the top of the third by turning a double play and issuing a strikeout to bring the offense back to the plate. Venezuela opted for a change in the circle to start the bottom of the third, and although Ochoa singled up the middle with two outs to mark the second hit of the day, a strikeout stranded him at first.


The U.S. also made a pitching change, bringing in Duane Weiler (Richland, Pa.) to start the fourth inning. A pair of fly outs and strikeout followed to retire the Venezuela lineup, while a double play and strikeout kept the score 2-0 despite singles from Cam Schiller (Prescott, Ariz.) and Jeff Nowaczyk (Midland, Mich.). 


Weiler sat down the Venezuela’s first two batters in the top of the fifth via strikeouts and while a hit-by-pitch and walk put runners on, a swinging strikeout forced another zero on the board. Tyler Dudley (Battle Creek, Mich.) and Jenner Christiansen (Hayward, Calif.) reached base after both were hit by a pitch and with one out, Ochoa launched a three-run home run to extend the U.S. lead, 5-0, after five innings. 


Venezuela responded in the top of the sixth inning, hitting a three-run shot to center field off U.S. pitcher Joel Cooley (St. Paul, Minn.). A single followed before an RBI double to left field drove in another run to make it 5-4, signaling a change in the circle to Jon Gwizdala (Bay City, Mich.) who walked one batter before striking out the next to close out the inning. In the bottom of the sixth with one out, Nowaczyk and Jonathan Lynch (Cape Girardeau, Mo.) posted singles but a pair of strikeouts kept the U.S. from adding to their lead.


With the MNT three outs away from earning the win, a strikeout and a pair of fly outs retired the side and capped off the 5-4 victory over Venezuela to earn fifth place at the WBSC MSWC. Palazzo and Ochoa combined for five RBI, while the pitching staff of Cooley, Gwizdala, Mancha and Weiler issued 10 strikeouts and allowed four runs on five hits and walked five.


With the win, the Red, White and Blue finished with a .272 team batting average, 5 home runs, 48 RBI and a 7-3 record.Team USA last stood on the podium at the 2000 edition in East London, South Africa.


The U.S. will finish out the 2019 season in Lima, Peru for the Pan American Games set for July 25-August 1. In eight Pan American Games participated in, the U.S. has claimed the Silver Medal in all but one event, falling just short the podium in 2015 with a fourth-place finish.


The 16 teams that competed in the WBSC Men’s World Championship were Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, USA and Venezuela.


Click here for more information on the 2019 WBSC Men’s World Championship


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