Image credit: Spencer Torkelson (Photo Courtesy of USA Baseball)
CARY, N.C. — Louisiana State outfielder Daniel Cabrera has been an unlikely hero for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team so far this summer, despite the fact that he began his summer competing in the Cape Cod League. It wasn’t until an injury to fellow LSU outfielder Antoine Duplantis that a roster spot opened on Team USA, and ever since Cabrera has been one of the team’s top players.
The collegiate national team won its fourth consecutive game against Chinese Taipei Sunday night, despite coming up short in clutch situations. Key hits by Cabrera and Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson, however, led Team USA to a 4-2 victory.
Team USA jumped out to a fast start, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the third. Torkelson delivered the first big hit of the night with a RBI single to left field, giving his team a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Cabrera brought home the eventual game-winning run on a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield. The CNT tacked on yet another run in the third inning off a single up the middle by N.C. State infielder Will Wilson, creating a 4-0 lead.
“I think we’re hitting the ball a lot better,” Cabrera said. “I feel like we can still do a little bit better in clutch situations, but we’re definitely starting to hit the ball better. And it’s just that the pitching is a little different than what we’re used to, we’re just adjusting to that.”
Despite a four-run third inning for Team USA, it could not find a way to score again. In the sixth, the bases were loaded with no outs, yet three straight outs resulted in another missed opportunity for the CNT. In the ninth inning, Team USA had runners on first and third with zero outs, but failed to score. In total, Team USA left 15 runners on base in Sunday’s game.
“It’s tough, but you can’t make excuses about it,” Torkelson said. “You gotta bear down. You gotta hit it. Coach (Paul) Mainieri said something good, ‘The pitches aren’t illegal, so they can throw it.’ We just got to adjust, can’t make any excuses, and hit it.”
Although Team USA is still struggling to hit with runners in scoring position, there has been a noticeable improvement at the plate. After being held to only nine hits through its first two games against Chinese Taipei, the CNT has managed to record 19 hits in its last two games.
“Well, I think we’re a step in the right direction because the Japanese are going to be the same way,” Torkelson said, referencing Team USA’s upcoming opponent. “They’re going to throw splitters and sliders in fastball counts, and they’re gonna pitch us backwards every at-bat they can. We’re getting used to it now.”
While Torkelson said that he thinks his team is making progress against Chinese Taipei’s different style of pitching, there aren’t many things that Team USA can do to adjust to this style of pitching.
“You can’t get a (batting practice) guy out there throwing submarine or hit batting practice off sliders all day,” Torkelson said. “But you just got to slow down your approach and react.”
Throughout Team USA’s struggles against the Chinese Taipei pitchers, Cabrera seems to be one of the few batters not fazed by the different style of pitching. After joining the team late, Cabrera has managed to put together a .286 batting average along with with a team-leading five RBIs and one home run.
“It’s just great to play for your country and play against a team like this,” Cabrera said. “It’s been awesome so far.”