PARANÁ, Argentina –– The USA Softball Men’s National Team (MNT) concluded its campaign at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Americas Qualifier today after competing in its second-consecutive matchup against No. 5 Cuba for a chance to take home the bronze medal. The U.S. fought to the very last out, but was unable to outlast the Cuban offense, falling 11-5 to finish in fourth place.
Team USA posted a 5-3 record throughout the tournament while earning a spot in the 2022 WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup scheduled to take place in Auckland, New Zealand November 26 – December 4. The Eagles will join Argentina, Cuba and Canada – who also qualified from this event – in addition to Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Denmark, South America, two teams from Asia and a wild card selection.
Team USA fell behind early in today’s bronze medal game after a leadoff single followed by a sac-bunt and a base hit through the right-side plated Cuba’s first run of the game, but a sleek double play by Cam Schiller (Prescott, Ariz.) allowed the U.S. to escape with only a one-run deficit.
A leadoff single from Erick Ochoa (Imperial, Calif.) and a one-out walk to Tyler Bouley (Champlin, Minn.) would look to start something for the Eagles in the bottom of the second, but a double play would retire the at-bat. Cuba managed to tack on two more runs to its lead in the top of the third after stringing together two doubles, a single and a walk to pull ahead, 4-0.
The U.S. chipped away at the Cuba lead in the bottom of the fourth after Schiller reached base on a one-out walk followed by an infield single from Ochoa, which forced a throwing error to allow Schiller to advance all the way around the bases for Team USA’s first run of the game. The U.S. looked to continue the rally with another pair of walks loading the bases, but a double play by the Cuba defense ended the inning with Team USA trailing, 4-1.
Cuba managed to respond back in the top of sixth after sending three-straight singles through the infield to put the U.S. behind, 6-1. Refusing to stay quiet, the Eagles answered back in the bottom of the frame courtesy of a leadoff single from Zac Shaw (Odessa, Mo.) and a hit-by-pitch by Nick Mullins (Toms River, N.J.) to set the stage for Schiller who sent a single through the left side to tack on two.
Despite a quick strikeout from Joel Cooley (St. Paul, Minn.) – who relieved Brad Kilpatrick (Sydney, Australia) in the top of the fifth – the Cuba offense plated five runs after stringing together three base hits and two home runs to extend the U.S. deficit, 11-3. With three outs remaining in the game, the Eagles continued its fight with Blaine Milheim (Eaton Rapids, Mich.) lighting a spark with a two-out single followed by a blast from Schiller to score two. Despite the late rally, the U.S. came up short after a strikeout ended the at-bat with Team USA falling 11-5 to finish fourth at the Men’s Pan American Championship.
The Red, White and Blue combined for a .333 batting average throughout the tournament with five batters hitting over .300. Leading Team USA on offense was Milheim who recorded a hit in all eight games with a .429 batting average while Schiller collected 11 RBI followed by Shaw with nine and Ochoa with eight. The U.S. pitching staff of Kilpatrick, Cooley and Cody Gibbons (St. Paul, Minn.) tallied 47 strikeouts with Kilpatrick issuing 29 K's in 30.1 innings pitched followed by Cooley with 15 in 16.1 innings pitched.