Team USA might have played five games in three cities over six days against Italy, but that itinerary seemed preferable to the one the Americans followed on their Far East trip, when they lost four of the 10 games to rain.
Team USA improved to 10-4 on the summer tour after scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win Wednesday in Pawtucket, R.I., to complete the Italian sweep.
"When you wake up in the morning not sure whether you're going to play, and you start doing that three days in a row, it gets a little mentally exhausting," Sean Doolittle (Virginia) said. "Once we got back here, we got something going again and we’re playing much better team baseball."
Team USA found much-needed offensive consistency as the weather allowed it adhere to a regular schedule for the first time all summer. The Americans scored six or more runs in each of the five games against Italy after scoring three runs or fewer in all but two games overseas.
Freshmen J.P. Arencibia (Tennessee) and Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech) provided much of that consistency, grabbing the top two spots in batting average and on-base percentage during the Italy series. Arencibia put together a home run, two doubles and five RBIs during an 11-3 win Sunday to cap the three games in Durham, N.C., before adding three more hits in the next game, a 15-0 win in Brooklyn, N.Y. Wieters homered in both of those games to raise his total to three on the summer, which ranks second on the team. Arencibia and Wieters each went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the 6-5 win.
"J.P. Arencibia has really separated himself as a righthanded hitter," Team USA coach Steve Smith (Baylor) said. "J.P.'s having to split time at catcher (with Florida's Brian Jeroloman), and with Matt LaPorta having a broken foot, he's had to DH, so the chances for Arencibia and Wieters have been limited."
Despite a broken fifth metatarsal on the outside of his left foot, LaPorta (Florida) still led the team with five home runs. His 10-game hitting streak, however, ended in the 6-5 loss, marking the first time on the tour he did not reach base.
Righthander Kyle McCulloch (Texas) held Italy to two hits over six scoreless innings in the 11-3 win to tie Ian Kennedy (Southern California) for the team lead with three wins. "Our older guys--Ian and Kyle McCulloch--have been pretty reliable, which you would expect from them," Smith said.
Righthander Max Scherzer (Missouri) recorded 10 strikeouts in five innings Saturday during an 8-3 win before lefthander David Price (Vanderbilt) delivered the pitching performance of the series by taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the 15-0 win. He struck out 11 batters, walked three and allowed one hit over seven innings.
"I like Price a lot," Kennedy said. "He's going to be really good one day. He's really good now, but I'll see him in the big leagues because he's a big lefthander who throws so hard and has command."
Team USA finishes its summer tour this week with six games against Nicaragua, three in Durham from Friday through Sunday and three in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from Tuesday through Thursday.