— ⚾ WBSC (@WBSC) September 4, 2017
THUNDER BAY, ONT.—Continuing its impressive run at the World Baseball Softball Confederation's U18 World Cup, Team USA rolled through another opponent on Monday by blanking South Africa 5-0 to extend its scoreless streak to 33.2 innings.
Team USA used four pitchers against South Africa, looking to give a few of its arms some work as it approaches an off-day and heads toward the super round, after an early-tournament weather delay and another rain-shortened outing took it off track.
"We wanted to get as many guys out there as possible," U.S. manager Andy Stankiewicz said. "(Mason) Denaburg was huge, getting him back out there, and then getting (Landon) Marceaux back on the mound after only one inning of work when we had the rain delay, so it was good to get him back on the mound and see him pound the zone. In that respect, it worked out well for us, and hopefully guys will be fresh, arms will be sharp, and ready to roll as we get into the end of the week."
Brandon Dieter got the start for the three-time defending champs and went two innings, before lefthander Joseph Menefee came in for three innings. Denaburg followed, hitting 93 and displaying the best stuff of the game, and Marceaux threw the final two innings. Team USA has allowed just one run in four games.
"We knew we had a lot of good pitchers at trials that made the decision to get to the 20-man really difficult," Team USA pitching coach Ricky Meinhold said. "But at the same time, we knew whoever was gong to be on the staff, we were going to be pretty excited with what we were going to get.
"But to take the game plan and execute it the way they have is pretty special, and it's a testament to how they work and who they are. We've been excited by what they've given us for sure."
South Africa countered with soft-tossing lefthander Mohamed Alaoui, who used 118 pitches in a complete-game effort, allowing five runs—including a two-run home run to right fielder Jarred Kelenic, his second of the tournament, and a solo shot to Will Banfield—on 10 hits with just one walk and five strikeouts.
"(Alaoui) did a great job," Stankiewicz said. "He's a competitive guy on the mound, mixes in pitches well, and he threw his breaking ball for strikes. He got our guys a little bit antsy, and they started coming out of the zone, but we did enough to win.
"That's what it's about, but you've got to tip your cap to his performance. He pitched a great game, and to go nine innings, he's a competitor, and for South Africa that's a nice accomplishment against the United States of America."
While Team USA's pitching has been at the forefront of the entire event, Stankiewicz is hoping to see some improvements from his team on offense, with just one matchup left in pool play—taking on Cuba on Tuesday—and the super round set to begin Thursday.
"We've got to get better," Stankiewicz said. "We know that, and I'm trying to stress that to our guys—we've got to put better at-bats together, and if we have to make some changes, we will. That's one of the messages I sent to the guys. This type of offensive performance is not going to help us get to where we want to get."
World Cup Notes
Joining Team USA in the win column on Monday was Korea, the leader of the other group and only other team to continue undefeated after taking down Nicaragua; Australia, beating Taiwan; Japan, defeating Netherlands; Cuba, beating Mexico; and Canada, staving off relegation to the consolation round of the tournament against Italy, coming out victorious after not leading the game until the ninth inning.
"The most important thing that our players got to experience tonight was what international baseball is," said Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams. "You want to let them feel what that feels like. You want to let them experience that emotion, and hopefully that will carry us over the next two games, realizing how special it can be when you get a taste of it.
"Tonight was the first time we got a true taste of it. The first couple games of the tournament, there is a tomorrow. You don't want to be 0-2, but there is another day. There was no other day tonight. That's what makes the international game special."