Youth Team USA Finishes First, Juniors Claim Bronze




Catcher Luke Bailey's two-run home run capped a four-run first inning in the youth national team's 8-2 defeat of Brazil in the championship game of its annual international tournament, which was held this year in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

The youth team, made up of 16-and-under players, went undefeated in six games at the event, capturing a gold medal in international play for the second year in a row.

Bailey, a sophomore from Troup County High in LaGrange, Ga., was one of six Team USA regulars to bat at least .400, outscoring Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and Colombia 75-13. Second baseman Justin Charles (Elk Grove, Calif., High) led the team with a .688 average (11-for-16) and 10 RBIs on his way to tournament MVP honors. Center fielder Andrew Aplin (Vanden High, Fairfield, Calif.) was another offensive catalyst, and right fielder Randal Grichuk (Lamar Consolidated High, Rosenberg, Texas) led all players with three home runs.

Zach Lee, one of three sophomores named to the youth roster, picked up his second win of the tournament by holding Brazil to one earned run on six hits in five innings of the title tilt. The righthander from McKinney (Texas) High struck out eight in the victory, including the first four batters he faced, and was 2-0, 0.90 with seven hits allowed and 14 strikeouts in 10 innings overall.

The event originally included teams from 10 countries and was scheduled as a World Youth Championship event. However, the International Baseball Federation rescinded its affiliation because of political differences between the governments of Taiwan and the host country, Venezuela. Taiwan's youth team did not receive visas from Venezuela and therefore could not participate in the event, leading to IBAF's decision.

USA Baseball's junior national team, a group of 18-and-under players, fell short in its bid for a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Ixtapa, Mexico.

In a battle of unbeaten teams, Cuba blanked host Mexico 7-0 to capture the gold medal and defend its 2005 title.

The U.S. junior national team (4-2) capitalized on six errors to defeat Canada 6-2 in the bronze-medal game, qualifying for the 2008 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta.

Team USA rolled to wins over Panama, Puerto Rico and Aruba in its first three games of the tournament by a combined score of 39-5 before dropping successive one-run decisions to Mexico and Cuba.

Team USA was two outs away from clinching a spot in the gold-medal game when Cuba rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the U.S. 3-2 in the semifinals. Shortstop Adenis Echeverria drove in the game-winning run with a double to left field off U.S. lefty Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky., Catholic High), who did not allow an earned run or walk in five innings overall at the event.

Senior righthander Ryan Weber (Clearwater, Fla., Central Catholic High) struck out 14 and walked one in 16 innings, and carried a shutout into the ninth against Cuba.

"We flirted with trouble the whole game and were able to make a pitch or make a play to get out of it," junior national team general manager Ray Darwin said. "They're eight and nine-hole hitters were very good, and when those guys got on in the ninth, it set them up, and finally they got the hits to go ahead.

"It's sickening to think about it."

Senior outfielder Robbie Grossman (Cy-Fair High, Cypress, Texas) paced the U.S. offense with eight hits in 18 at-bats and five runs and seven RBIs. Senior first baseman Eric Hosmer (American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.) was hitless in 10 at-bats with four walks and four strikeouts.