USA Baseball's 2010 season for high school-aged teams came to a close in October with the 16U National Team capturing a gold medal by beating Mexico 11-4 in the COPABE Pan Am 'AA' 16U Youth Championships. The 16U program is now unbeaten in the last five years, running the streak to 40 games.
"I was really proud of everyone involved with the program this year, from the staff down to all of the players who participated in our trials," said Jeff Singer, director of the 16U program. "It was a particularly challenging year in regards to how late in the calendar the event fell and the fact that two weeks before trials started we didn’t officially know if we’d be able to compete due to safety concerns in Mexico. In the end everyone put all of that aside, we came together as an incredibly close team and we kept our focus day after day and proved that we were the best team in the tournament. We really hit the ball incredibly well."
Infielders Alex Bregman and Corey Seager led the squad on offense. Bregman, a junior at Albuquerque Academy, hit .564/.596/.846 in 39 at-bats with two home runs, 17 runs and 17 RBIs. He also stole five bases. Seager hit .514/.622/.829 in 35 at-bats with 16 runs scored and 12 RBIs. He proved to be the team's most patient hitter, drawing 10 walks in nine games. While Bregman and Seager did plenty of damage on their own, Team USA destroyed opposing pitching as a whole. In nine games the squad hit .437/.500/.749 with 15 home runs and outscored opponents 127-23.
Four pitchers sported a 0.00 ERA, but the two with the most innings were righthanders Carson Kelly and Felipe Perez. Kelly hurled 13 innings, going 2-0, 3.46 with nine strikeouts and one walk. Perez hurled one-third of an inning more and went 2-0, 3.38, allowing just nine hits and three walks while striking out 15.
The 16U team was the last to wrap up its season. The 18U National Team finished fifth at the COPABE Pan Am 'AAA' 18U Youth Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. this summer. At a glance, fifth place seems uncharacteristic and unacceptable for a U.S. team, but in the first game of the medal round, Team USA was matched up with Cuba—a contest typically more fit for a championship final. Even so, Team USA was disappointed in the finish and questioned its own process and selections this year.
"I think it's natural to do that," said Rick Riccobono, the former 18U director, after the tournament. "I wholeheartedly believe we were the best team in Thunder Bay. The reality is we were playing in a championship tournament and we didn't win the tournament. And there's no excuses for that."
After being eliminated from winning a medal, Team USA bounced back in its next two games to beat Korea and the Netherlands to capture fifth place.
"I credit the kids for bouncing back," Riccobono said. "There's a lot of pride in the way we finished."
Outfielder Michael Lorenzen, a 2010 seventh-rounder who is now at Cal State Fullerton, led the team in the tournament in hitting with a .565/.630/.870 line in 23 at-bats. Righthander A.J. Vanegas, also a seventh round-pick and now at Stanford, hurled 14 innings, striking out 21. He was 1-0, 1.93.
The 18U gold medal game was actually an intriguing one with Taiwan beating Australia 8-4.
"What helped us get to the gold game was our overall execution whether it had been offensive or defensive, including some outstanding individual pitching efforts together with some timely offense and perfect defense," Australia head coach Tony Harris said. "One thing we as a country realize is, to be a contender and compete with the best in the world we have to be defensively perfect and not allow more than three outs per inning. We were able to achieve that in those lead up games."
USA Baseball's 14U team had been rolling through the COPABE Pan Am 'A' 14U Championships before running into Venezuela in the semifinals. Team USA lost 11-1, but bounced back to win the bronze medal by defeating Brazil 6-0.
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