Palmerston North, New Zealand – The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup run came to a close for the USA Softball U-18 Men’s National Team (MNT) Saturday afternoon as they fell 11-7 to South Africa in the third and final Placement Round matchup at Colquhoun Park. Despite outhitting their opponents, the Red, White and Blue could not recover from a dominant fifth-inning by South Africa and finish 11th.
Retiring the South African side in order to start the game, the U.S. offense struck first in the bottom half of the frame. Eli Rivas (Whittier, Calif.) and Will Ponce (Olathe, Kan.) reached on a walk and hit-by-pitch, respectively, before a standup double from Blake Kerr (Vassar, Mich.) allowed Rivas to cross home. Klay Kilpatrick’s (Sydney, Australia) fly ball to right field was caught and after tagging up, Ponce extended the U.S. lead 2-0.
Responding back in the second inning, South Africa led off with a triple before a single to right field plated a run and cut the U.S. lead in half. Caden Luna (Gardner, Kan.) singled on a 1-1 count with two outs for the U.S. but was caught stealing to close out the inning.
Quickly placing two runners aboard after an error and walk, another triple by South Africa allowed them to take a 3-2 lead over the Red, White and Blue. It wouldn’t last long as the U.S. tied up the ballgame after three-straight one-out singles from Parker Hopkins (Decatur, Ill.), Ponce and Kerr. South Africa then made a change in the circle, inducing a strikeout and groundout to end the third inning.
With both teams tied at three runs apiece, the U-18 MNT sat down the South African side in order for the second time in the game to return to the plate. Luna looked to create an offensive spark, hitting a one-out double to centerfield before a single from Ian Winterhalder (Murray, Utah) placed runners on the corners. A fly out to right field by Hopkins allowed Luna to make it home, giving the U.S. a 4-3 lead.
Chase Thomson (Herriman, Utah) replaced Josh Eurich (Sebewaing, Mich.) in the circle to start the fifth inning, but soon walked three consecutive batters to load the bases. A passed ball allowed a runner to score while a fielder’s choice on a groundball to shortstop made it 5-4 in favor of South Africa. Following another fielder’s choice on a groundout to second, South Africa capped off their six-run inning with a hard-hit triple to the right field fence to jump ahead, 9-4.
Both teams were kept silent until the seventh inning, with Eurich back in the circle for the U.S. South Africa added to their lead with a two-run home run, while the Red, White and Blue returned to the plate one last time. Back-to-back singles from Hopkins and Ponce, and a walk to Eurich loaded the bases, while a passed ball gave Hopkins room to score. Josh Pernetti (Ceres, Calif.), batting for Kilpatrick, then drew a walk before a pair of groundouts by Braden and Brennan DuCharme (Hudson, Wisc.) allowed two more runs to cross the plate. Trailing 11-7 with two outs, a walk to Matthew Armitage (Evansville, Wisc.) put two runners on for the U.S. before a pop out ultimately sealed their defeat.
With the loss, the USA Softball Men’s National Team finishes the 2020 WBSC U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup in 11th placewith a .264 team batting average, 23 RBI and a 2-6 record. The pitching staff of Eurich, Thomson and Hopkins combined for 19 strikeouts and allowed 49 earned runs through 44.2 innings, with Eurich tossing 34 innings.