USA 5, Panama 0
It took a near-miracle, but Team USA is heading to Round Two of the World Cup/Pan Am tournament. After Team USA’s loss to Canada on Sunday afternoon, two things needed to happen for the US to advance to the second round. The easier condition was that Team USA was going to have to beat host-team Panama on Monday, a game that had been postponed due to rain earlier in the week. The tougher condition: Chinese Taipei, who had an 0-5 record in the tournament (including a 15-1 loss to the US), was going to have to beat Puerto Rico on Sunday night.
It must have seemed miraculous to the Taipei team — they defeated Puerto Rico 3-1, for their only win of the tournament. A 2-run homer in the 2nd inning gave Taipei a lead they would not give up, and three Taipei pitchers combined to hold Puerto Rico to just 4 hits and one run. That gave Puerto Rico a 3-4 record in the tournament and gave Team USA the chance to earn a 4-3 record with a win over Panama.
And that’s just what they did. Starter Andy Van Hekken (Astros) won his second tournament game with 8 shutout innings against the Panama team, managed by former Pirate farmhand Einar Diaz. Van Hekken scattered 5 hits over his 8 innings, but no walks and no strikeouts. Panama never had more than one runner on base at a time, and after the first batter in the bottom of the 1st singled and stole second, Panama did not have a runner get past first base for the remainder of the game. Reliever Scott Patterson (Mariners) finished off with a perfect 9th inning.
Team USA scored 2 runs in the 3rd. SS Andrew Garcia (White Sox) was hit by a pitch to begin the frame, and he scored from first on RF Brett Jackson’s (Cubs) RBI double. Jackson advanced to third base on a throwing error on a pick-off throw, then scored on 2B Joe Thurston’s (Marlins) RBI single. 3B Tommy Mendonca (Rangers) led off the 4th with a solo homer, then back-to-back doubles by AJ Pollock (Diamondbacks) and Thurston lifted the score to 4-0. Jackson also homered, in the 6th, for the final US run. Pirate farmhand Eliecer Navarro pitched a perfect 8th inning for Panama.
Pirates’ Jordy Mercer did not get into the game, nor did Blue Jay’s Travis d’Arnaud.
Round Two begins on Tuesday, with Team USA facing off against Cuba. Cuba is the only team in the tournament to come through Round One with a 7-0 record.