2016 USA-Cuba Series: Friedl Lifts U.S. to Series-Evening Win Over Cuba, 4-1
A three-run double by TJ Friedl (Nevada) was the highlight of a four-run sixth inning for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team on Tuesday as it claimed a 4-1 triumph over Cuba at Capitan San Luis Stadium.
The victory evens the series against Cuba at two games each, setting up a rubber game at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Pinar del Rio.
Team USA will be looking to earn the first series victory in Cuba in program history when it sends Tanner Houck (Missouri) to the mound to square off with Cuba's Raidel Martinez.
The contest will mark the end of the USA squad's month-long summer tour which featured a total of 19 games in four different countries.
Tuesday's game used virtually the same script as the first four in the series as stellar pitching and defense on both sides led to a single hit being the determining factor in victory.
Fortunately for Team USA that hit came off the bat of Friedl who followed a bases-loaded walk to Dalton Guthrie (Florida) by lacing a 3-1 pitch to right-center to clear the bags and give his squad a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
That would be more than enough for the U.S. pitching staff which continued its phenomenal work on the mound.
This time it was the trio of JB Bukauskas (North Carolina), David Peterson (Oregon) and Tyler Johnson (South Carolina) who were able to limit Cuba to just a single run on seven hits.
Bukauskas got the start and gave Team USA five sparkling innings, striking out three while allowing just one baserunner to reach scoring position.
Peterson went on to earn the win, working two innings of three-hit ball before Tyler Johnson worked out of a sticky situation in the eighth en route to earning a six-out save, his third of the summer.
With the U.S. holding a three-run lead, Cuba was able to put together a scoring threat when a hit batter and a single put two runners on base with nobody out in the top of the eighth.
Team USA manager George Horton then made the call for Johnson to trot in from the bullpen and he answered the bell, inducing a 4-6-3 double play on his first pitch and then getting a groundout to short to end the frame.
Johnson would then work a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the victory and set up the series-deciding rubber game on Wednesday.
Team USA field manager George Horton
(On today's victory)
"We are happy to win and happy to put ourselves in position to not only beat Cuba, which is always a great accomplishment, but to win the series as well. That is what we came here to do. We are playing against older guys who are professional baseball players and that is a good measuring stick for our players. They want to be Major League baseball players themselves and this has always been a very respectful series. Every inning that goes by, I think the men of Cuba give our young players more respect, just as we give them great respect."
(On the challenges the team has faced in Cuba)
"The travel has been part of the extreme challenge that we have faced. This has been what I call a 'compensate and adjust' tour. We have had some very long bus rides. It is always great to see such beautiful places and new towns all across the great country of Cuba, but it has been very difficult on both teams. I am so proud of our warriors though. Whether it has been the 23 hours we have spent on busses in the last five days or having to take batting practice with no shirts on because we didn't have laundry today, they don't care. They are real men and I am so proud of them."
Team USA outfielder TJ Friedl
(On today's game)
"It was just a great game on both sides. It was well fought and came down to one hit. The pitching and defense has been great and I was fortunate to get a big hit for our team. It is going to be a great game tomorrow. I know both sides are looking forward to giving their all."
Team USA LHP David Peterson
(On earning the win in today's game)
"It felt good to come away with a great team win. A lot of guys did a lot of things to help us win today. I think tomorrow is going to be a great game, just like the first four have been, and our team is ready for the challenge."
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