USA Juniors Drop Gold Medal Game To Cuba

Complete coverage of 2005 Pan-Am Junior Championship




Cuba once again spoiled the U.S. junior national team's bid for a gold medal by scoring two runs in the third inning and holding on for a 2-1 win, to capture the COPABE AAA Pan American Junior Championship in Villahermosa , Mexico Sunday. The Cuban national team has claimed the gold medal at six consecutive Pan Am events, held biennially for players age 18 and under.

Team USA earned its third straight silver medal at the tournament, which also serves as a qualifying event for the 2006 World Junior Championship. Cuba, the U.S., Canada and Panama were the four countries that successfully qualified for next year's event, which will be held in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Canada best Panama for the bronze medal.

Cuba escaped two-on, one-out situations in the seventh and ninth innings in its game against the previously unbeaten Americans. Cuban starter Juan Serrano held Team USA to one run through 8 1/3 innings before Yasnier Hidalgo checked in and retired the only batter he faced, inducing a game-ending double play.

"We kept battling," Team USA coach Jerry Dawson said. "I wish we could have come up with a break . . . but we couldn’t. We kept knocking on the door but we couldn’t get in."

Righthander Shawn Tolleson, a senior from Allen (Texas) High, relieved righthander Tyson Ross, a freshman at California, in the third inning and matched Serrano down the stretch. Tolleson struck out 10 with two walks and six hits in 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Cuba managed a walk, a sacrifice and a one-out single to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Another RBI single followed a hit batsmen to make it 2-0.

Team USA entered Sunday's gold medal game with a 7-0 record in pool play and Saturday's 7-1 win over Panama in the semifinals. Tolleson compiled a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and a save, leading a pitching staff that owned an event-best 0.94 ERA, while allowing 33 hits in 67 innings. Lefthander Brett Anderson, a senior out of Stillwater (Okla.) High, was 2-0, 0.56 with 24 strikeouts in 16 innings. He tossed a complete game two-hitter versus Panama.

Marcus Lemon, a senior shortstop from Eustis (Fla.) High and the son of ex-big leaguer Chet Lemon, topped Team USA with a .500 average, 12 runs, 17 total bases, a .607 slugging percentage and .611 on-base percentage.


USA Junior Squad Locks Up Semifinal Slot

By Alan Matthews
September 10, 2005

USA Baseball's junior national team defeated Argentina 10-0 Thursday, locking up one of four spots in the semifinals of the COPABE AAA Pan American Junior Championship in Mexico and qualifying for the 2006 World Junior Championship.

Team USA ran its pool play record to 5-0 thanks to another impressive pitching performance, this time from senior righthander Josh Thrailkill (T.C. Roberson High, Asheville, N.C.). Thrailkill spun a complete-game three-hitter, dominating off his fastball-changeup-curveball repertoire with eight strikeouts and no walks.

The game was called after seven innings, thanks largely to an American offense that banged out 16 hits.

Outfielder L.V. Ware, a freshman at Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) JC, was 4-for-5 with two runs and two stolen bases. Senior second baseman Adrian Cardenas (Monsignor Pace High, Opa Locka, Fla.) added three hits, two runs and two RBIs. Shortstop Marcus Lemon, a senior from Eustis (Fla.) High, scored three times and drove home two more.

Pool play continues Friday as Team USA meets Brazil. A victory would earn the junior national team the top seed in the medal round, which begins Saturday, though Team USA does not need to win again to reach medal play.

The eight-team tournament serves as a qualifier for next year's World Junior Championship. All four countries that advance to the semifinals qualify for next year's event.


Pitching Carries Team USA Junior Squad

By Alan Matthews
September 8, 2005

Team USA continued its otherworldly pitching performance with a 3-0 victory Wednesday against Panama at the COPABE AAA Pan American Junior Championships in Villahermosa, Mexico. Two junior national team pitchers , which consists of 20 of the nation's top players age 18 and under, allowed one hit in the nine-inning game, improving to 4-0 in pool play.

The juniors have allowed three runs and 14 hits in four games with 36 strikeouts and 20 walks in victories over Puerto Rico, Cuba, Canada and Panama.

Righthanders Dellin Betances and Shawn Tolleson handled with task Wednesday. Betances, a senior from Grand Street High in New York, was effectively wild early on, working around four walks in the first two innings, then retiring 12 in a row from the third inning before being lifted in favor of Tolleson in the seventh inning.

"I was a little anxious in the beginning and was rushing myself," Betances said. "Once I started to calm down, I was able to get into a rhythm. After the third inning, I kept throwing strikes and was getting in a groove."

Tolleson, a senior from Allen (Texas) High, recorded the final eight outs, striking out four. Panama avoided the no-hitter with an opposite-field single to left field with one out in the eighth.

Team USA scratched out three runs off 15 hits, stranding 12 runners on base. Third baseman Grant Green (Canyon High, Anaheim) and DH Torre Langley (Alexander High, Douglasville, Ga.) had three hits apiece.

Pool play continues Thursday as Team USA meets Argentina and Mexico in a doubleheader. Team USA is competing with Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico for one of four spots--based on pool play records--in the semifinals scheduled for Sept. 10. All four countries that advance to the semifinals qualify for next year's World Junior Championships. The gold and bronze medal games are slated for Sept. 11, and while winning gold is a goal of the teams in attendance, qualifying for the 2006 tournament, which will be held in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, is the primary objective of all eight teams in the field.


Team USA Juniors Rained Out

By Alan Matthews
September 7, 2005

Rain suspended play after two innings of USA Baseball’s junior national team's game Tuesday with host Mexico in the Pan American Junior Championship. Tournament officials have not decided when the pool play game will resume.

The juniors were scheduled to return to action Wednesday against Panama (3-1) in pool play.

With 3-0 records, Team USA and Brazil remain as the lone unbeaten squads in the tournament. Brazil's scheduled game with Cuba Tuesday was also suspended with the game scoreless. The Canada-Puerto Rico contest was halted in the fourth inning due to rain with the game knotted at 1-1. One game was completed on the day. Panama blanked Argentina (0-5) by an 8-0 count.


Junior National Team Runs Record To 3-0

By Alan Matthews
September 6, 2005

For the third time in as many games, USA Baseball's junior national team held its opponent to one run as it remained unbeaten with a 5-1 win Monday against Canada in Teapa, Mexico, at the COPABE AAA Pan American Junior Championships.

Stillwater (Okla.) High lefthander Brett Anderson dealt seven innings of one-hit ball, and the juniors took advantage of six Team Canada errors.

Anderson, a key cog on last year's youth national team pitching staff and the winning pitcher at this summer's Aflac All-American game, allowed only a leadoff double in the fourth inning. Following the double, a wild pitch and a one-out walk put runners on first and third, but Anderson recorded one of his 11 strikeouts, then induced an inning-ending groundout to thwart the rally.

"Brett turned in a very impressive performance," junior national team coach Jerry Dawson said. "He knows how to pitch. Getting out of the fourth without allowing a run was huge since we only led 3-0."

Stanford freshman outfielder Sean Ratliff had three hits, including a double during a two-run fourth inning, while first baseman Max Sapp, a senior from Orlando's Bishop Moore High, had two hits.

Team USA remains one of two unbeaten countries at the eight-nation tournament. Brazil defeated Argentina 6-1 Monday to join the Americans at 3-0.

Team USA is competing with Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico for one of four spots--based on pool play records--in the semifinals scheduled for Sept. 10. All four countries that advance to the semifinals qualify for next year's World Junior Championships. The gold and bronze medal games are slated for Sept. 11, and while winning gold is a goal of the teams in attendance, qualifying for the 2006 tournament, which will be held in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, is the primary objective of all eight teams in the field.


USA Junior Squad Tops Cuba

By Alan Matthews
September 5, 2005

USA Baseball's junior national team eagerly awaited the chance to cleanse its palate. Last year's fourth-place finish at the World Junior Championships in Taipei City, Taiwan, ended a 20-year string in which the juniors had earned a medal at the biennial event, leaving it with a sour taste that served as incentive for this year's team as it prepared for international competition.

And if the team's preliminary pool play performances in Mexico at the COPABE AAA Pan Am Junior Championship were any indication of its appetite, the junior national team might soon relish the flavor of victory.

Sunday, righthanders Tyson Ross and Shawn Tolleson handcuffed the event's five-time defending champion, Cuba, allowing a run on five hits with seven strikeouts in Team USA's 3-1 win.

Ross, a freshman at California, surrendered just two singles and two walks in five innings before Tolleson, a senior from Allen (Texas) High, entered.

Cuba manufactured a run off Tolleson in the seventh inning to tie it 1-1, but Team USA countered in the next inning. Shortstop Marcus Lemon reached on one of his three hits in the game, then scored the go-ahead run when outfielder Scott Schauer lined a single to right field. Lemon, a senior from Eustis (Fla.) High, narrowly beat the throw to the plate to break the tie.

“Before the play, I was thinking that I have to score on a base hit because it could mean the difference,” Lemon said. “When I got to the plate, I saw the catcher go up for the throw. I reacted and tried to make it in safely.”

The victory improved the junior national team to 2-0 following two of seven contests in seven days of round-robin pool play. Team USA is competing with Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico for one of four spots--based on pool play records--in the semifinals scheduled for Sept. 10. All four countries that advance to the semifinals qualify for next year's World Junior Championships. The gold and bronze medal games are slated for Sept. 11, and while winning gold is a goal of the teams in attendance, qualifying for the 2006 tournament, which will be held in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, is the primary objective of all eight teams in the field.

The 20 players were selected exclusively from the pool of players 18 and under who competed in the annual Tournament of Stars held in June in Joplin, Mo. Following a week-long trials period in Joplin, 26 players reassembled in Atlanta on Aug. 26 for practices and a six-game exhibition series, both of which served as part of the final evaluation and selection process for the 20-member roster chosen to play in Mexico.