Baseball is America’s national pastime, and the under-18 US national baseball team made sure to remind everyone of that at the annual Pan-Am Championships held in Cartegena, Colombia, this year. A team assembled of some of the best prep players in the country went out and annihilated their opponents, going 9-0, outscoring them 88-8, and having four games end with the mercy rule invoked.
They beat, in order, Aruba 15-0 (7 innings), Mexico 3-1, Argentina 16-2, Colombia 4-0, Bahamas 16-0 (5 innings), Puerto Rico 8-2, Panama 9-0, Venezuela 5-1 and Canada, in the gold medal game, 12-2 (8 innings).
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It was an absolute masterful performance in every aspect of the game, and every single player on the team played well and contributed big in one way or another.
Albert Almora, a six-time member of Team USA, put on a show the entire tournament. He went 16-38 (.421), and led the team with 11 runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases to earn MVP honors. He also played flawless defensive in the outfield and brought his veteran leadership with him.
Second baseman Gavin Cecchini, third baseman Alex Bregman, shortstop Addison Russell and pitcher Jesse Winker joined Almora on the All-Tournament Team. Cecchini hit .469 to lead the team and also added 10 RBI and eight stolen bases. Bregman hit .417 with seven RBI and five stolen bases while coming up with clutch hits seemingly every at bat. Russell hit .393 with nine RBI, four stolen bases and he hit the team’s only home run of the tournament, a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning against Canada that put the game away early for Team USA.
Winker, who went 2-0 while throwing 10.1 scoreless innings, was named top pitcher, but the entire staff was brilliant. Walker Weickel went 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA and had 12 K/2 BB over 13.2 innings. Carson Kelly, the winner of the gold-medal game, went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and had 12 K/1 BB over 14 innings. As a team, the US had a 1.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and they held opponents to a .165 average over 72 innings.
Many of these players are going to be first-round draft picks next year. Almora, Cecchini, Weickel and Russell were already considered locks to go in the first round. Some others are Hunter Virant, one of the top lefties in the country. Virant tossed four innings, allowing one run while striking out six and picking up a win. David Dahl, one of the best left-handed hitters in the country, hit .364 with nine RBI and seven stolen bases. He also scored 11 runs while batting leadoff for the team. Joey Gallo, a 6’-5” 3B/RHP, hit .286 with five RBI and four stolen bases while playing first base for the tournament. Gallo could get drafted in the first round as a hitter or a pitcher.
Team USA was the favorite coming into the tournament, and despite some very good teams in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela and Canada, they proved no match for the competition. They arrived in Colombia focused and with one goal: to bring home the gold. They succeeded by dominating in every aspect of the game. Here are some totals from the tournament:
The offense hit .353 with a .451 OBP, while the pitching staff held opponents to a .165 average and .238 OBP.
The team stole an insane 45 bases over the nine games. Their opponents stole eight as catchers Jeremy Martinez, Nelson Rodriguez and Chris Okey did a great job of preventing opponents from being too aggressive.
The offense scored 88 runs, a 9.8 average, while the pitching staff held their opponents to just eight runs, a 0.9 average.
The defense committed just two errors, both coming in the gold-medal game. Their opponents committed 22 errors, which led to 21 unearned runs.
The team drew 50 walks, led by Joey Gallo and Jeremy Martinez with seven a piece. The pitching staff walked 20.