CHIAYI CITY, Taiwain -- The Kansas baseball team (USA Team) used two timely late-inning hits Friday evening at Chiayi City Baseball Field to defeat Korea, 3-2, in what turned out to be a preview of Sunday's bronze medal showdown.
USA (3-2) scrapped out two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take its first lead of the game after junior-to-be left fielder Mateo Zunica led off with a bunt single. Senior-to-be designated hitter Blake Shinkle followed suit with a bunt of his own and forced a Korea (2-3) throwing error that set the table for a two-run frame.
"Zunica is one of our best short-game players," head coach Ritch Price said. "When he got the ball down the third base line, there was no way he was going to get thrown out. Then Shinkle lays down the sacrifice bunt and Korea makes the one mistake in the game that proved costly."
The two-run rally came to light two innings after junior-to-be first baseman Jaxx Groshans stole the momentum in the sixth. Groshans broke Korea starter Jeong O Lee's no-hit bid in the bottom of that frame with a solo shot to left field. That swing of the bat sent a charge into the USA dugout and there was no looking back.
"I'll tip my cap to Korea's starter Lee," Price said. "He has that sidearm action and was spinning his slider away from our right-handed hitters. He completely dominated our lineup until Groshans hit that home run."
It took until the sixth for USA to get on the board, but it was the pitching of the stars and stripes that paved the way for a late comeback.
Sophomore-to-be lefty Steve Washilewski started on the bump and tossed five innings of two-run ball. Classmates Conner VanCleave and Daniel Hegarty followed with three scoreless innings before junior-to-be Gabriel Sotomayor closed out the ninth for the save.
"I want to compliment our three young guys that went out there and pitched first," Price said. "They went out there and threw strikes and kept us in the ballgame. It ends up being a great team win."
Top of 2nd
Korea breaks open the scoring after a two-out double and a USA throwing error - KOR 1, USA 0.
Top of 3rd
Back-to-back one-out doubles by Korea plates another run - KOR 2, USA 0.
Bottom of 6th
Jaxx Groshans breaks the Korea no-hit bid with a home run to left field - KOR 2, USA 1.
Bottom of 8th
Back-to-back bunts by Mateo Zunica and Blake Shinkle, a Korea throwing error and a sacrifice fly by Rudy Karre gives USA its first lead - USA 3, KOR 2.
USA will get a day off before a rematch with Korea to decide the bronze medal on Saturday, July 14, at 10 p.m. (CT). Fans can watch the action live at YouTube.com/SSUTV.