by Mike Potter
COLEMAN FIELD/CARY It's Game 2 of USA Baseball's friendly series against Canada, as both teams prepare to play in the World Cup in The Netherlands, Italy in Germany later this month.
The clubs are made up entirely of minor-league pros, with the USA team completely of Triple-A and Double-A players while the Canadians are from every level including a couple of former pro pitchers who are currently without contracts.
The series should be competitive, as Team USA won the opener 6-4 on Thursday night after the visitors had taken an early 3-0 lead.
Two of the USA players were with the Durham Bulls just a few days ago. Jon Weber is playing left field and hitting third, while Jason Childers came out of the bullpen for a scoreless inning on Thursday.
It's a mild night with no threat of rain out in one of the greenest parts of the Triangle. And it's a happy alcohol-free crowd that will get a chance to watch "The Bad News Bears" after the early game.
Panera Bread has brought sustenance to the press box. Let's play ball.
Team USA jumps on right-hander and former Giants organization farmhand Brooks McNiven for a three-spot in the first inning of a game the Americans eventually hold on to win 7-4.
Buck Coats (pictured) starts the rally with a one-out double to right. Weber then walks before Pedro Alvarez reaches on a fielder's-choice ball to third to force Weber. Ike Davis walks before Justin Smoak hits a two-run single to center. Tug Hulett's single to center makes it 3-0.
The second inning got worse for the Canucks. Jason Castro led off with a single to right, followed by another single to right from Daniel Descalso and RBI single to center from Coats. Weber had an RBI single to right, and with one out Ike Davis hit an RBI double to left center before Smoak's grounder to short scored Weber to make it 7-0.
Chris Robinson broke the shutout for Canada in the second, when he led off by blasting Brad Lincoln's 2-2 pitch over the fence in right center.
The score stays right there until the eighth when Canada rallies for four runs off B.J. Rosenberg. With one out, Brett Lawrie reaches on an error to shortstop Trevor Plouffe, followed by Rene Tosoni's single to left. After a wild pitch Shawn Bowman hits a sacrifice fly to right, followed by Tim Smith's triple to center and Cole Armstrong's RBI single to left that chases Rosenberg and brings on Nate Field. Field strikes out Robinson en route to the save.
Here's what they said ...
Weber: "So far so good. We can still be more patient and selective at the plate, but everything is coming together. It's about putting it all together at the right time. Our pitching staff is incredible - we've got a lot of great arms."
Coats: "We got some runs early tonight, and that made a big difference for us. It's a big honor to be wearing this uniform. We all respect it a lot."
Lincoln: "The offense really picked me up tonight and all I had to do was go out there and throw strikes. Wearing this jersey is really special. It's a real honor, and a lot different from just playing for your (pro) organization."
What does it all mean?
That both teams seem to be coming together well as they prepare to challenge the world.
Stars of the game
1. Coats, for his two hits and an RBI.
2. Armstrong, for three hits and two RBI.
3. Lincoln, for allowing one run in a pre-planned four-inning start.
Play of the game
Field's strikeout of Robinson to end Canada's eighth-inning rally.
USA leads 2-0.
USA: Won 2.
Canada: Lost 2.
Canada at USA, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Chris Begg (R) vs. Todd Redmond (R)