Missed Opportunities Doom Team USA

Leaving seven runners on base cost USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team their first loss in Game 4 of a five-game series against Cuba on Saturday night, as Cuba was able to string together three consecutive hits in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 6-5, walk-off win over Team USA.

Neither team was able to pull ahead through the first five innings, as Team USA starting pitcher Reid Detmers (Louisville) and reliever Logan Allen (Florida International) held Cuba scoreless heading into the sixth inning. After the Collegiate National Team took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth, Cuba immediately responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame.

Team USA seemed to be in a good spot in the eighth inning, when shutdown reliever Tyler Brown (Vanderbilt) replaced Allen on the mound, but Cuba was able to string together a few well-timed hits to take the lead and, eventually, win the game.

“You hope this is like a bee sting,” Team USA head coach Dan McDonnell said. “You learn what it feels like to lose again and you hope it hurts and you hope to come out tomorrow with a little more edge and more fight.

“I thought we grinded it out, and what they did to us in the ninth (inning), we’ve been doing all series—those two-strike, two-out hits. And as we see, those are good hitters and players . . . They put together a heck of a rally.”

The statistic that stood out in the box score for Team USA was the fact that they left seven runners on base, representing seven missed opportunities that could have frustrated hitters in such a close, back-and-forth game. However, McDonnell was adamant that Team USA hitters didn’t let the missed opportunities frustrate them, and the Louisville head coach make sure not to dwell on the negative. 

“I don’t talk about that often. I think good offenses get a lot of guys on base, it’s bad offenses that don’t have a lot of guys on base,” McDonnell said. “So I just think it showed we had a lot of good at-bats tonight . . . The name of the game is the two-out hit, and (Cuba) had some big ones tonight.”

Some coaches might see a high number of runners left on base as an issue, but from McDonnell’s perspective, that number represents an offense doing its job. Ultimately, Team USA had the at-bats and scoring opportunities necessary to put themselves in a position to win.

“I hope we all learn a little from that,” McDonnell said. “We’re better off for it as we go into these next two series and we look ahead to tomorrow’s game.” 

Luke Waddell (Georgia Tech) helped lead the offense going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base. He also tried to focus on the positive as the Collegiate National Team will take on Cuba one last time on Saturday night. 

“We probably could have scrapped one or two more runs across, but we put ourselves in a good place to win,” Waddell said. “Obviously we could have done a little better offensively, but sometimes you just can’t get them all in, so we’ll be back tomorrow.”

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