by Mike Potter
USA Baseball's National Team came within a whisker of knocking off homestanding Japan in their 37th annual Collegiate Friendship Series, but a pair of errors in the 11th inning spelled doom in an 8-7 loss at Jingu Stadium in the deciding Game 5.
Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray made an errant pickoff attempt to move Shota Kioke to third base with two outs. And then the team's only returning player from last season, Cal State-Fullerton's Christian Colon, kicked a ground ball at short to give the Japanese the victory.
The Americans seemed to have the game in hand through 8 ½ innings after scoring three times in the top of the ninth for a 7-4 lead. After Tomoyuki Sugano misplayed a sacrifice bunt to score Hawaii's Kolten Wong (pictured), Clemson's Brad Miller added insurance with a single to right and Florida State's Tyler Holt followed with a sacrifice fly.
But Japan answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame off Texas Tech's Chad Bettis. Masayoshi Kato hit a two-run triple to chase Bettis before Keiji Nakahara greeted Gray (2-1) with a single to right center.
Yusuke Nomura (1-0) got the win for Japan.
Rice's Rick Hague led the USA with a homer and a single.
Team USA will travel to Prince George, British Columbia, for the Enbridge Northern Gateway World Baseball Challenge beginning Sunday at 10 p.m. (EDT) against Canada.