CARY Tuesday night was not the night for Team USA, regardless of sport.
What started as a shootout ended as a pitchers’ dual as the USA Baseball Collegiate national team faced off faced against the Chinese Taipei national team at the USA Baseball National Training Complex. Justin Garza dominated for the U.S. on the mound, but that was not enough as the game ended in a 5-5 tie.
Extra innings work drastically different in international play compared to standard MLB rules. Each team is allotted two base runners at the beginning of the inning and is allowed the option to start at any point in its lineup. The rules are in place to prevent marathon contests, as they force offensive action while saving pitchers’ arms.
In the top of the 10th, Chinese Taipei managed to bring one run across the plate, but pitcher Bailey Ober forced the double play to limit the damage and bring America to the plate with the chance for a walkoff if it could score both of its runners.
But a base running error by Mark Mathias led to a quick out and a runner on first. However a wild pitch, a hit batter and an intentional walk gave America the bases loaded with one out. DJ Stewart sent a blooper into center field to score the tying run.
In the early going, everything was going America’s way, as the team jumped to a quick 3-0 lead. Cal State Fullerton pitcher Thomas Eshelman seemed in complete control. He ran into trouble in the top of the third, when he gave up three runs.
Fellow Cal State product Garza took over for Eshelman in the top of the fourth. After walking his first batter, Garza retired the next three batters to send the Americans to the plate with a chance to retake the lead.
Pitcher Yi Chih Huang loaded the bases with one out to bring Alex Bergman to the plate. But Huang forced Bergman to ground to third and Tzu Hong Chen converted the difficult double play to end the inning.
The contest was the first of the five-game International Friendship Series and marked the beginning of the first such series since 2010.
The series will resume Wednesday at Shelby High’s Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium. The first pitch is at 7 p.m. and tickets will be $5 at the gate. The series moves to BB&T BallPark in Charlotte on Thursday for a 7:05 p.m. game.
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