New USA Baseball Squad Wins Debut Event
See also: USA Baseball Pan Am Event Stats
USA Baseball's delve into a new realm of international competition got off to a grand start when the organization's first team of players age 14 and under won a COPABE Pan-Am 'A' North/Central America regional qualifying event in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
The first American 14-under entry ever assembled defeated Nicaragua 13-2 in six innings to complete the event with a perfect 6-0 record. Along with the medal, Team USA secured a spot in the Pan-Am "A" Championship to be held in November in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nicaragua (4-2), El Salvador (3-3) and Guatemala (1-5) were the other three tournament entries to successfully qualify for the November tournament in San Juan.
The U.S. outscored its opponents 99-28 and held them to a .171 batting average. The U.S. offense blew open its game with Nicaragua in the second inning when it scored nine runs, highlighted by a three-run home run by catcher Jake Gober (Sammamish, Wash.), one of two hits he collected in the inning. Lefthander Colin Reed (Belmont, Calif.) struck out seven in six innings, facing just two over the minimum in the final four frames on his way to tournament best pitcher honors.
Gober, third baseman Cole Gleason (Mesa, Ariz.) and center fielder Tyler Krause (Fountain Hills, Ariz.) were also named to the all-tournament team. Shortstop Zach Davies (Gilbert, Ariz.) was 13-for-22 and named the event's most valuable player. Outfielder Billy Flamion (Modesto, Calif.) led Team USA regulars with a .636 average, homering four times with 11 RBIs in 11 at-bats.
"There were times when our pitching wasn't as good as it could have been, but our bats always kept us in the hunt," said coach George Sanchez (Gilbert, Ariz.).
The 14-and-under national team joins the youth (16-and-under) and junior (18-and-under) national teams to form a third tier of player development and international competition under the USA Baseball umbrella. Many of the same players who have played for the youth and junior teams have gone on to play for USA Baseball's college national team and, in some cases, even the U.S. Olympic team and USA Baseball's professional teams.
The 18-man roster was selected exclusively from one of four USA Baseball Champions Program sectional tournaments, which took place in October and November 2006. USA Baseball plans to expand its new Champions Program to 25 sites in 2007, enabling it to see widen its pool of players from which to select the 14-and-under national team.