Collegiate National Team Drops Finale To Cuba, Still Wins Series

CARY, N.C.—USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team on Friday completed its annual five-game friendship series against Cuba with a 3-2 loss at the National Training Complex.

Despite the loss, Team USA won the series against Cuba, three games to two. It has won three straight series against Cuba and has won all three of the friendship series played on American soil since the annual series was restarted six years ago.

Team USA won its first three games against Cuba, including a 5-0 victory in Charlotte on the Fourth of July to clinch the series. The series returned to Cary on Thursday and Friday, with Cuba winning both games.

"You play five games, regardless of whether you win the series or not," manager John Savage said. "Losing the last two is difficult, but we played better (Friday) than we did last night. To win the series is the No. 1 objective."

Following Friday's game, outfielder Steele Walker (Oklahoma) was named series MVP. He was also named last week the MVP of Team USA's series against Taiwan and is the team's leading hitter. He is batting .431/.483/.667 with seven extra-base hits and five stolen bases in 14 games this summer.

Walker said he is thankful for the honor, but doesn't focus on individual awards. Instead, he is happy that the CNT has won back-to-back international series to start the summer.

"You take pride in wearing the USA," he said. "It kind of has a different meaning, bigger than yourself that you can beat another country."

Team USA (11-3) has six games left in its summer schedule. After spending the last three weeks in North Carolina, primarily playing at the National Training Complex, the CNT will this weekend travel to New England. It will play Tuesday against an all-star team from the Futures Collegiate Baseball League before ending its summer with a five-game series against Japan.

Walker said the CNT is excited to play Japan.

"We have all the confidence in the world in ourselves, we know we're great players," he said. "The last two games have been tough, but knowing the guys we're not going to let that affect us whatsoever. We love getting out on the field and competing."

The six games will be played at five different stadiums in New England, including the newly opened Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford. Savage said he is hopeful Team USA will get to play in front of some large crowds, as it has done during the first part of its summer.

"They get to see Team USA, that's what it's all about, having the people see the best college players in the country," Savage said. "The nights that they've come out I think they've seen a pretty good product."