Nico Hoerner sparks Team USA by going 4-for-4
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CARY, N.C. — The 14U National Team beat the 15U Canes, 8-4, Tuesday to sweep the two game exhibition series against the Charlotte, N.C., based team.
The game was held at Thomas Brooks Park in Cary, N.C., and it will serve as the final game before the team departs for San Felipe, Venezuela, Aug. 11. For the second day in a row the Canes got off to an early start as Max Bazin and Adam Lassiter each had an RBI single in the top of the first to give the Canes the early 2-0 lead.
They would tack one more run in the top of the second and the third innings to increase the lead and make it 4-0. Pitching for the first six innings for the 15U Canes were local area high school pitchers in an effort to give the 14U team stiffer competition to prepare for the COPABE Pan Am 14U Championships in San Felipe, Venezuela.
The high school pitchers did their job until Nico Hoerner got things rolling for the 14U team in the bottom of the third with a lead off single, advanced to second and third on past balls and was brought home by Jonathan Hughes with an infield single for the first run of the game. Nick Madrigal then advanced to first on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on two past balls, but was ultimately stranded as the U.S. finished the inning down, 4-1.
The next three innings would become a pitchers duel as John Aiello and Isaak Gutierrez shut down the Canes as they combined to throw three shutout innings while only allowing one hit to keep the red, white and blue in the game.
Team USA rallied in the bottom of the seventh when William Aguilar led off the inning with a single down the right field line, followed by Sean Dixson who was hit in the back on the first pitch to put two runners on with one out.
After a perfectly executed double steal, Shannon Glover was walked to load the bases for Hoerner. Hoerner continued his hot start with a 2 RBI single to right field to make him 3-for-3 on the day and bring Team USA back to within one, making the score 4-3.
Hughes was walked the following at bat to load the bases once again for Madrigal, who hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field to advance the runners to knot up the score, 4-4. Chris Botsoe then showed off his speed in the next at bat as he hustled down the line to beat out an infield hit to bring home Hoerner for the 14U team’s first lead of the game, 5-4.
Hoerner came up big again in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single to center field to score Sean Dixson, who reached earlier in the inning on an error, to increase Team USA’s lead, 6-4.
Chris Betts came on to close for Team USA, and with the bases loaded got the third and final out to pop up to second to seal the victory, 6-4. The game was officially over after the top of the ninth inning, but both teams agreed to play a complete ninth inning with the international extra-inning tie breaker rule.
The tie breaker rule puts runners on first and second with no outs to start the inning, which is why Team USA scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 8-4.
NOTES EXTRA HELP: The 15U Canes were assisted by local area high school pitchers Tuesday, who combined to throw the first six innings, in an effort to help the 14U National Team see older pitchers to prepare for the competition in San Felipe, Venezuela.
SLOW STARTS: For the second consecutive game the U.S. gave up several first inning runs to put them in a hole early. Monday, they gave up three runs to the Canes and Tuesday they gave up two first inning runs.
THROWING A GEM: John Aiello threw two perfect innings Tuesday morning against the 15U Canes in his first appearance on the mound for Team USA. The right hander struck out four batters while issuing no walks.
X-FACTOR: Nico Hoerner went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs at the plate Tuesday to give the U.S. the spark plug it was looking for as they struggled early. He came up big in the bottom of the seventh inning when he delivered an RBI single to cut the Canes lead in half at 4-2, and later scored to give the club its first lead of the game, 5-4. He delivered another big hit in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single to center field to give the U.S. a two run lead at 6-4 going into the last inning.
THE CLOSER: Chris Betts got the save for the red, white and blue by coming in with two men on in the top of the ninth and got all three batters out without allowing a run.
TIE-BREAKER RULES: The game was officially over after the top of the ninth inning, but both teams agreed to play a complete ninth inning with the international extra-inning tie breaker rule. The tie breaker rule puts runners on first and second with no outs to start the inning, which is why Team USA scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 8-4.
GIVING BACK: The 14U National Team will visit Duke Children’s Hospital tomorrow morning in its last day in Cary, N.C., before departing for Venezuela on Thursday.