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Collegiate National Team Forced To Adjust At The Plate

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CARY, N.C.—USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team faced an odd challenge Thursday night in its 3-2 victory over Chinese Taipei. Team USA struggled to hit with runners on base, resulting in a pitchers’ duel between the two sides. The main problem for the collegiate national team? Slow pitching.

Chinese Taipei’s pitchers threw at lower velocities than what most college pitchers in the United States typically throw. In fact, only one Chinese Taipei pitcher touched 90 mph, and, along with lower-velocity fastballs, the Chinese Taipei pitchers threw a heavy dose of offspeed pitches, keeping USA batters from getting comfortable.

The hitter who adjusted the best to Chinese Taipei’s pitching was Louisiana State left fielder Daniel Cabrera, who entered the lineup as a replacement following an injury to fellow LSU outfielder Antoine Duplantis. After grounding out to the shortstop in his first at-bat, Cabrera hit a single down the right-field line that hit off the first-base bag and drove in a run. Later in the game, Cabrera took advantage of a hanging curveball, hitting a solo home run that turned out to be the game's winning run.

“I didn’t know what kind of stuff he had because it didn’t look like he was throwing as hard,” Cabrera said, when asked about his home run. “So I was going to take the first pitch. His velocity wasn’t as hard as I was expecting, so I just sit back and try to draw something. And he hanged a curveball.”

Cabrera’s breakout game was the lone bright spot for Team USA, however, as his teammates combined for just three hits while leaving six runners on base.

“We just got to get better hitting in the clutch,” said USA manager Paul Mainieri. “They threw a bunch of soft throwers. The other night when we played the high school kids, they had much better arms than what we faced today, so our hitters have to change their approach at the plate a little bit and just understand that that’s what we’re facing.”

Aside from Cabrera, third baseman Josh Jung was one of the only hitters that produced for Team USA on Thursday night. A Texas Tech product, Jung reached base with a single up the middle, and he later came home to score on Cabrera’s single down the right-field line. Despite Jung’s single, he and his teammates struggled to adjust to the different style of pitching they were facing.

“It was just trying to wait back on those pitches,” Jung said. “Our timing was a little screwed up; the past few days we’ve been seeing some pretty good pitching. These guys, they completed, they hit their spots, and we just got to do a better job at waiting on it.”

Jung added that he thinks his team will hit better going forward now that they have had a chance to see a few of the Chinese Taipei pitchers.

“We don’t really have any scouting reports, and hitters live on that—to know what the guy’s going to come in and throw,” Jung said. “But seeing what they got now, it will help us and just get us rolling.”

Mainieri reiterated his displeasure with his team’s hitting. However, he is confident that a change in approach at the plate will lead to better results.

“We didn’t make very good adjustments tonight,” Mainieri said. “But tomorrow we’ll do better. (East Carolina head coach) Cliff Godwin is a great hitting coach, and he’ll work with them tomorrow. We’ll take more of an opposite-field approach, I’m sure. Try to hit the ball back through the middle.”

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