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By JAMES ALLAN
NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan — USA Team’s offense scored 13 runs off 14 hits to cruise to a 13-3, seven-inning, run-rule victory over Russia on Tuesday night at New Taipei City Xinzhuang Stadium. The win moves USA to 2-0 in Pool B play and clinches a spot into the medal round.
USA led 2-1 through three innings before scoring 11 runs over the final four frames. Ben Norman’s RBI single in the seventh inning extended USA’s lead to 10 runs and reliever Cole McDonald sat Russia down in order in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the run-rule victory.
A pair of Iowa pitchers limited Russia to three hits in the game. Junior Sammy Lizarraga (1-0) earned the victory, allowing three runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings. He had seven strikeouts to one walk. McDonald didn’t allow a hit in 1 2/3 innings.
QUOTING USA TEAM HEAD COACH RICK HELLER
“It was a good night for us, we got the bats going. Early in the game, we had opportunities, but didn’t get the two-out hit. After the third inning, guys loosened up and we started barreling some balls up. The bats came to life and guys up and down the lineup started getting comfortable. That was good to see.”
“Sammy gave us exactly what we needed and pounded the strike zone. He threw a lot of strikes and competed. Cole came in and got his feet wet and we got out of here in seven, which is a good thing with the quick turnaround.”
QUOTING USA TEAM
Junior starting pitcher Sammy Lizarraga
“It felt good. Going into the game my goal was to pound the zone and throw strikes and let them put it in play to let my defense make plays behind me. I feel like I accomplished that pretty well. I was happy with how it went.”
Junior outfielder Chris Whelan
On the offense
“It was huge to get the offense going to be able to conserve pitching. We only threw two pitchers and that was big. Sammy gave us a big start and the offense was fortunate to start clicking in the middle innings. (Neustrom) had a big night and guys were getting on base left and right. It was good to see everyone start swinging the bat.”
“They beat Russia pretty good. I know they are going to be a tough opponent, probably our toughest in pool play, but I think we’re ready to play.”
USA TEAM NOTABLES
- The top three batters in USA’s order — Chris Whelan, Ben Norman, and Robert Neustrom — finished 8-of-13 with nine RBIs and three runs scored. Neustrom had two triples, which came in back-to-back innings in the team’s two-run fourth and fifth frames.
- Four players posted multi-hit games in the victory, including three-hit games from Whelan and Neustrom. Whelan finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs, while Neustrom was 3-for-5 with two RBIs.
- Eight different players recorded at least one hit and seven USA players scored a run. The team had five extra-base hits in the game.
- Lizarraga had seven strikeouts in the game; USA has 20 strikeouts and a 2.25 ERA in two games.
- After committing five errors in the opening win over Mexico, USA played clean defense against the Russians.
- USA left 14 base runners on against Russia, including leaving the bases loaded twice in the first three innings.
USA returns to action tonight (on Wednesday morning Taiwan time) against Japan beginning at 10 p.m. (CT). Both Japan and the USA are 2-0 in Pool B; the top two teams move on to the medal round.
The game will be tape-delayed on the CBS College Sports Network. Fans can watch the action live via Periscope.
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