by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM It’s Game 1 of the annual Collegiate Friendship Series between Team USA and Japan.
This will be the 38th rendition of the annual five-game set, which is played to a fifth game even if one team quickly wins three times.
Japan has taken the series only once when it was held in the United States, that being in 2007 with the deciding game at DBAP.
This time Games 1 and 2 will be played here, with Game 3 in Cary before the set finishes with single games in Kannapolis and Omaha.
The crowd will certainly build during this contest, as there is a single admission for this one and tonight’s Bulls game against the Gwinnett Braves.
Pitcher-infielder Marcus Stroman of Duke is a rare local entry on Team USA, but will not start this game.
Stanford rising junior Mark Appel (0-0, 0.00) will start for the USA on a hot afternoon against Yusuke Nomura.
And the hosts outhit the Japanese in a 7-6 comeback win in which each team commits three errors.
The USA takes a 1-0 lead in the second, as Oral Roberts’ Chris Elder hits a two-out double to right and scores on a single to right from Arkansas’ Matt Reynolds.
But the Japanese put up six runs in the fifth inning. Koki Sasaki is hit by a pitch before Yuji Kaneko’s single up the middle. After Daichi Suzuki reaches on Appel’s throwing error, Yoshihiro Ikeda scores the run on a fielder’s choice ball to short. With one out Hayata Ito is hit by a pitch, Hotaka Yamakawa launches the next pitch over the Blue Monster wall in left center to make it 6-1.
The USA adds another run in the fifth. Cal State Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzen draws a two-out walk, followed by a walk to Florida’s Nolan Fontana and an RBI single to left from Arizona State’s Deven Marrero.
And the USA gets its big inning in the seventh. Lorenzen hits a one-out single to center, and then Fontana is hit by a pitch before Marrero greets Nao Higashihama with an RBI single to center. Texas A&M’s Tyler Naquin reaches on an error to left fielder Sasaki. Then with two out Arkansas’ Dominic Ficiciello hits a two-run single to right off Tomoyuki Sugano to tie the score before Elder hits a single to center where Ikeda overruns the ball to make it 7-6 and finish the scoring.
Japan has runners on second and third with one out in the eighth when Stroman takes the hill. He proceeds to get five straight outs including a pair of strikeouts for his third save of the season.
The winner is TCU’s Andrew Mitchell (2-0), who pitches the seventh and strikes out three with one walk.
Nomura goes five innings and allows two runs on five hits with three strikeouts against two walks.
They said it …
USA coach Tim Jamieson: “They’re a difficult team to score runs on, and we were fighting our way back. But we had to overcome ourselves a little bit. We gave the Japanese a lot of help. I would expect a much cleaner game tomorrow by both teams. It’s the first time anybody has really hit the ball off Stroman, so it was a little bit of an adjustment for us. But you could watch his body language. He wanted the ball and he wanted to end the game.”
Stroman: “I’m usually here for my summers, so I’m pretty comfortable. I felt a good amount of pressure, more than an ACC game, because it was a close game, we came back and I knew I had to come in and really shut the door. I needed a big K and I got it. The guys on this team are unbelievable. Everybody’s always up. But we formed a bond real quick. Most of us really didn’t know each other when we got here. But we chatted throughout the whole game and kept the intensity up.”
Elder: “It was just one of those plays where it was uncharacteristic for a Japanese guy to make a mistake. But the ball went in our favor. It took a weird spin and got away from him. I was just seeing the ball well and being calm, really. We didn’t have that many games to come together and build camaraderie, but we all like each other. We just stayed within ourselves. All these guys are good and they’re here for a reason, so we never really doubted ourselves.”
What does it all mean?
That the USA gets an emotional victory to begin its biggest event of the season.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Ficiciello’s two-run single in the seventh.
USA leads 1-0.
USA: Won 6.
Japan: Lost 1.
USA (D.J. Baxendale 0-0, 5.40) vs. Japan (TBA), 6:05 p.m.