Pitching Carries Team USA Junior Squad

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.