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USA comes back to beat JNT

DURHAM, North Carolina – The Junior National Team got off to a good start in game three against the USA Collegiate National Team, but the Americans were able to turn the tables late and come back to beat the Canadians 14-5 in the exhibition contest.

It was the JNT who got on the board first and they did it with a five run outburst in the top of the first inning.  Ryan Clarke (Mississauga, ON) drew a leadoff walk and Andrew Ruck (Whitby, ON) followed with a single which put runners on first and second.  Daniel Altoe (Burnaby, BC) then hit a single of his own to drive in Clarke for the first run of the game.

Ryan Johnson (Winnipeg, MB) came to bat after Altoe and hit the first pitch he saw down the right field line for a double, driving in both runners for an early 3-0 lead.  Johnson would advance to third on the same play due to an error by Rob Segedin.

“I went into the at-bat knowing I needed to be more aggressive,” says Johnson.  “They’ve been pumping fastballs at us so far thinking we can’t handle it, but tonight we should we can handle those 90 plus mph fastballs.”

After the Americans got the first out of the inning on a Wes Darvill (Langley, BC) strikeout, Kevin Biro (Bowser, BC) hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Johnson and make it 4-0 for Canada.  Darren Kolk (Duncan, BC) then singled and stole second, allowing Chris Robinson (Uxbridge, ON) to drive him in on the fifth hit of the inning for the Canadians, who now hold a 5-0 lead.

“I was happy offensively tonight.  I thought we swung the bats pretty well,” says JNT Manager Greg Hamilton.  We’re facing some pretty good pitching and I thought we had some better approaches at the plate and we been getting more consistent.”

Then Paul Barton (Qualicum Beach, BC) took over as he held the Americans without a hit until the fifth when things turned around on the Canadians.

Barton had allowed one run on five walks and a hit batter up until the fifth.  He walked Tyler Holt to start the inning then hit Jeremy Schaffer with a pitch.  Singles from Matt Newman and Christian Colon spelled the end of Barton’s night.

“I was a little nervous tonight.  I really had to work at it to get guys out tonight,” says Barton.  “In the second inning it was better and things started to come a bit back to normal.”

Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, ON) came in relief of Barton with the bases loaded.  Rutckyj would allow all the inherited runners to score on a walk to Andy Wilkins and a two-run single to Rick Hague and allowed three runs of his own, two of them earned, before getting out of the inning.  All told, the Americans erased the five run deficit by bringing 12 men to the plate and scoring seven runs to take a 8-5 lead.

The Americans kept pouring it on after that.  They would increase their lead to eight runs with a five-run seventh inning.   Holt hit a two-run double off of Nicholas Pivetta (Victoria, BC) for the first two runs, Newman knocked in a run with a single and Colon added another on a triple.  Kolten Wong knocked in the fifth run on a sacrifice fly, which ended the outing for Pivetta who went 1-2/3 innings.

Team USA scored their final run in the eighth when Newman knocked in Holt, who had doubled, with an RBI single off of Joel Pierce (Windsor, ON).

“We played half a game tonight,” says Hamilton.  “We’ve got to clean some things defensively and we had trouble throwing strikes for the better part of the night.”

“You’ve got to live with some growing pains,” added Hamilton.  “You’ve got young people going out there against some pretty advanced players, but that’s what we’re here for.  We’re here to put these guys in these types of experiences and we’re here to learn.”

The Junior National Team returns to the field on Sunday, June 28 at 5:05 PM ET for game four with the USA Collegiate National Team at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  Jerome Werniuk (Toronto, ON) is scheduled to start for the Canadians.