GUATEMALA CITY –– The USA Softball U-17 Men’s National Team (MNT) bounced back with a late sixth inning rally to secure 11-8 victory over No. 25 Panama. A Blake Kerr (Vassar, Mich.) game-tying three-run home run sparked the U.S. offense in the bottom of the sixth before a string of hits ended the back-and-forth, lead-grabbing battle for good.
Panama took an early 2-0 lead in the top of first inning. A leadoff walk followed by a single to centerfield put two runners on for Panama while a series of wild pitches and stolen bases eventually brought them around the bases to put the U.S. down, 2-0.
Team USA went down quietly in the bottom of the frame but began chipping away at the Panama lead in the second inning as Parker Hopkins (Decatur, Ill.) led off with a line drive double to left field. Klay Kilpatrick (Sydney, Australia) then sent a line drive of his own to centerfield, advancing Hopkins around the bases to put the U.S. on the board.
The Red, White and Blue evened the playing field in the bottom of the third inning after Ian Winterhalder (Murray, Utah) reached base on an infield error before scoring on an Eli Rivas (Whittier, Calif.) double to centerfield, knotting the score 2-2.
A solid 1-2-3 fourth inning from the U.S. defense sent them back to the plate in the bottom of the frame. Hopkins and Kilpatrick once again led off Team USA’s offense with a walk and a single. Hopkins eventually plated the go-ahead run after a passed ball, giving the U.S. a 3-2 lead.
Panama answered back in the top of the fifth, tacking on three runs to regain the lead. A leadoff walk followed by an infield single and a hit-by-pitch started the inning for Panama, while a two-out double cleared the bases to put them back on top, 5-3.
The sixth inning brought another Panama run across home plate, extending their lead 6-3, but a dominant offensive inning from the Red, White and Blue put the U.S. back on top in the bottom of the frame. Kilpatrick and Matthew Armitage (Evansville, Wisc.) started the inning for Team USA, both reaching base on walks. Kerr then busted open the U.S. offense, sending the first pitch of his at-bat over the centerfield fence to clear the bases and tie the game, 6-6.
Caden Luna (Gardner, Kan.), Winterhalder and Rivas continued the U.S. rally, loading the bases before Cody Gibbons (St. Paul, Minn.) sent a single through the infield to score Luna followed by a fly ball from William Ponce (Olathe, Kan.) to score Winterhalder and Rivas. Kilpatrick then sent a two-out double to left field to plate two final runs for Team USA, putting them back in the lead, 11-6.
A two-out triple followed by two singles allowed Panama to plate two runs in the top of the seventh inning, but a ground out to Ponce ended the two-out rally to secure Team USA with the 11-8 victory over No. 25 Panama.
Kilpatrick led the U.S. offense, going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with three RBI, while home run hitter, Kerr, also racked up three RBI with his sixth inning long ball. Gibbons collected the win in the circle after striking out one and allowing five earned runs on ten hits through seven innings of work.
The U.S. finishes the U-17 Men’s Pan American Championship with a 3-3 record, just shy of earning a spot in the Playoff Rounds and a berth to the 2020 WBSC U-18 Men’s World Cup.