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USA too much for JNT in series opener

CARY, North Carolina – the USA Collegiate National Team put up a big inning in the third and then broke it open in the fifth on route to an 12-4 victory over the Junior National Team in the opening game of this five game exhibition series.

The Americans opened the scoring in the bottom of the first against Canadian starter Jake Eliopoulos (Newmarket, ON).  With runners on first and third and no outs, Christian Colon grounded into a double-play which allowed Tyler Holt to score and put the U.S. up front 1-0.

Then a pair of throwing errors by the Canadians allowed a pair of runs to score in the bottom of the third.  Michael Choice led off with a single and reached second on a balk from Eliopoulos.  Rick Hague laid down a sacrifice bunt but Jeff Hunt’s (Cambridge, ON) throw was off line and sailed into right field, allowing Choice to score.  On the same play, Adam Nelubowich (Stoney Plain, AB) attempted to get Hague at third, but his throw went high and Hague came all the way around to score.

Later on in the inning, Colon hit a two-run home run which gave the Americans a 5-0 lead.  JNT Manager Greg Hamilton admitted that his team may have has some nerves prior to the game.

“We unravelled a little bit in that inning and we threw the ball around.  The energy level took over.  Again it’s the first time out against the United States for any of these kids and you get some jitters.  It’s only human.”

The Canadians did respond in the top of the fourth when Hunt finished a string of three straight singles to drive in Kellin Deglan (Langley, BC) to break the goose egg for Team Canada.

That would be as close as they would get as the Americans broke the game open in the fifth inning by scoring five runs, including a two-run home run from Andy Wilkins to put the United States ahead by nine runs and it would spell the end for Eliopoulos.

The left-hander lasted 4 - 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing eight runs, five of which were earned, on nine hits and a walk with one strikeout.  Eliopoulos self admittedly did not pitch his best game on this night.

“I just had to get ahead of more hitters,” says Eliopoulos.  “Sometimes there is nothing you can do and you just have to let it go.  I’ve just got to keep working hard and believe that good things will come.”

With the lead now 11-1, the Canadians were able to put up a bit of a fight in the eighth inning when American pitcher Bryce Brentz walked the bases loaded to open the frame.  After striking out Hunt for the first out, Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) hit an RBI single to bring in Nelubowich to bring in the second Canadian run.  Brentz control issues continued as two more runs scored on free passes to Alex Calbick (Bowser, BC) and Ryan Clarke (Mississauga, ON) to make it 11-4.

The Americans added their final run in the bottom half of the eighth when Colon led off with a single, followed by a triple by Rob Segedin.  Colon finished the game 3-for-4 with four runs and four RBI.

Some bright spots for the Canadians included Steve McKinnon (Duncan, BC) who threw 1 - 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball, allowing only a walk while striking out three.

“We were already down by a lot so there wasn’t really any pressure on me,” says McKinnon.  “I just had to come out and throw strikes.”

“I thought we competed in spots tonight,” says Hamilton of his team’s performance.  “We made some mistakes that we can’t make and gave them nine runs in two innings.

The Junior National Team will take the field again on Friday, June 26 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park when once again they will face the USA Collegiate National Team.  Steven Inch (Edmonton, AB) is the scheduled starter for Canada.  Game time is 7:05 ET.

Note: Fans can now follow the games live on the web for the remainder of the American portion of the Summer Camp by going to