by Mike Potter
Score one for the Red, White and Blue.
USA Baseball's National Team got the kind of pitching performance it was looking for, as UCLA's Gerrit Cole (pictured) struck out nine in seven innings in a 3-0 victory over Japan in the opener of the college squads' 37th annual Friendship Series in Matsuyama, Japan.
It was the opener of their best-of-5 series, in which all five games are set to be played even if someone clinches early.
Cole allowed just two hits and one walk in his stint before Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray and Chad Bettis of Texas Tech each fired one inning of relief. Karuhito Futagami took the loss for the Japanese, who had only one runner reach third base.
The USA scored twice in the fourth inning. Florida State's Tyler Holt singled, and then Christian Colon of Cal State-Fullerton tripled before Arizona State's Matt Newman followed with a single.
Keiji Nakahara had a seventh-inning triple for the Japanese.
Andy Wilkins of Arkansas hit an RBI single in the ninth to add an insurance run.
Game 2 is Monday at 5 a.m. (EDT) at the Tokyo Dome, with Ole Miss' Drew Pomeranz on the hill for the USA.