Temperatures will climb into the mid-90s at Durham Bulls Athletic Park this weekend, but don't expect Team USA's players to complain. In fact, most probably will take the field with smiles on their faces this weekend against Italy.
The warm-weathered homecoming figures to sit well after the collegians spent two weeks in the Far East and lost four of their scheduled 10 games to rain, including the final three to Typhoon Haitang. They lost four of the games they did play to their opponents, dropping three of four to Japan and splitting two games in Taiwan.
Team USA starts a five-game set against Italy with a 5-4 record on the summer. It won its first three games against New England Collegiate League opponents before the 2-4 road trip. The Americans will play Italy in Durham from Friday through Sunday before they travel with the Italians for two more games at professional parks in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Tuesday and Pawtucket, R.I., on Wednesday. After that, Team USA returns to Durham for three games against Nicaragua on July 29-31 before taking their opponent to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to finish the summer tour Aug. 2-4.
The Americans hope the return to native soil brings more consistency to their play. Aside from a 13-2 win against Japan, Team USA has yet to hit, field and pitch well in the same game. The Taiwan series proved a solid example.
Team USA beat Taiwan 1-0 in the first game, holding the home team to only one hit. Ian Kennedy (Southern California) struck out nine and walked two over seven hitless innings before Mark Melancon (Arizona) finished the game. He allowed a one-out single in the eighth inning and struck out four batters in two innings. But the Americans committed two errors and managed only one run in the game, with Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech) doubling and later scoring on a Jon Jay (Miami) groundout.
Team USA scored plenty of runs in the second game, led by three hits and three RBIs from Adam Davis (Florida), but lost 9-7 as four errors led to three unearned runs while David Price (Vanderbilt) and Jonah Nickerson (Oregon State) each allowed three earned runs over 6 2/3 combined innings. Sean Doolitte (Virginia) also tallied three hits in the loss, while Matt LaPorta (Florida) drove in two runs with two hits.
STAT OF THE SUMMER: Thus far Team USA hitters have 93 strikeouts against 30 walks (in 313 at-bats), while the pitching staff has registered the exact ratio in 79 innings.