DBAP/DURHAM OK baseball fans, today I'm "Safe at Home in Durham" (although I live in Brier Creek now) for Game 4 of the USA National Team's five-game set with Canada.
The Red, White and Blue, which has won all three by comfortable scores, will be favored once again. Not just because the U.S. is just better than Canada in baseball at the amateur level, but also because the Canucks have sent an 18U team. Good for the young boys from Canada to get some experience - I mean every golfer would like to play a round with Tiger Woods, right? - but for competitive balance, not so much.
When I get to the press box I learn there will be a total of two keyboard journalists in the house, and that we will be the first to cover any game in the series, which started on Thursday night in Cary. Kudos to the News & Observer for getting to the game, and I'm not going to take shots at the papers in Burlington or Greensboro or any of the smaller surrounding cities for not being here. I'm just not. I would have been around for the first three myself, but I couldn't be in Zebulon and Durham at the same time.
Today the buffet menu includes both your standard meat-and-tomato sauce lasagna along with a vegetable alternative and Caesar salad.
Canada scored five runs in the first inning on Saturday night before losing 14-5, and today it's competitive early. After the USA, which is the designated "visiting" team, scratches out two in the first, the Canadians tie it in the bottom of the frame.
But when veteran Christian Colon of Cal State-Fullerton - the only school for which somehow game ops does not have the fight song - blasts a two-out, 0-1 offering over the Blue Monster wall in left in the second, the tricolor boys are off to the races. USA scores two in the third, two in the fifth, five in the sixth, four in the seventh and it's a challenge to stay engaged in the process.
The homeboys eventually win it 20-3, with 11 different players hitting safely and Coastal Carolina's Cody Wheeler (pictured) getting the win. In other USA Baseball action on Sunday, Babe Ruth beat Bryce Harper and the American Legion team 8-7 for the championship of the Tournament of Stars.
Here's what they said ...
USA skipper Rick Jones, from Tulane: "We were just going on all cylinders today. ... We've faced a drafted pitcher (Canada starter Jerome Werniuk is a 20th-round pick of the Rangers). ... We've got to play the game and not the opponent. Japan wins because they're disciplined."
Colon: "It's amazing playing on this team for a second straight year, something I'll always remember. Every day we have to come out ready to play, us against the game."
Canada skipper Greg Hamilton: "It's not about winning for us. This is a two-year project. Russell Martin (Dodgers) and Jason Bay (Red Sox) and Justin Morneau (Twins) have all stood out here before."
What does it all mean?
The USA has a 28-game win streak, including an unbeaten season in '08 that included a win over Cuba's World Baseball Classic team last year.
Stars of the game
1. Colon, for his two hits including a two-run homer and three RBI.
2. USA starter Wheeler of Coastal Carolina, for allowing two hits in 5 2/3.
3. USA's Tyler Holt of Florida State, for his three hits and four RBI from the leadoff spot.
Play of the game
Colon's two-run homer in the second.
USA leads 4-0.
USA: Won 4.
Canada: Lost 3.
Canada at USA, 7:30 p.m., Cary
Steve McKinnon (right) vs. Asher Wojciechowski (right)