Team USA 18U Baseball at World Championship in Korea


Texas is well represented on the USA 18U Baseball National Team currently competing in the XXV IBAF 18U Baseball World Championship in Seoul, South Korea. Two of the twenty players on the American squad are Texans.  Cavan Biggio, from St. Thomas High School in Houston has been playing 1B. Dominic Taccolini, who did not see action today, is a pitcher from I.H. Kempner High School in Sugarland.

Attending a baseball game in South Korea, in the stadium built for the 1988 Olympics, is an interesting experience. They don’t sell hot-dogs or pretzels, only kimchi and ramen and other things that are difficult to name. $10 gets you in to three games. Security was non-existent. Spectators can bring in coolers or backpacks without anyone looking in them.

After an opening game that was never a contest (Team USA beat the Netherlands 17-0), the American team got a wake-up call today. The team faced the difficult task of playing the host nation, South Korea, on their soil.

The game got off to a promising start when USA scored a run in the first inning, but the home-team prevailed 8-2.

After the first inning, the Korean picther quickly settled into a rhythm, showed impressive control, and the USA were never able to mount much of an offensive threat.

The Korean squad won this game because of superior pitching and better defense, particularly in their infield. USA batters hit a ton of ground balls, some of them potential hits, and the Korean infield made every single one of them look like routine outs. In comparison, the infield for the USA looked sloppy at times, getting charged for 2 errors and were generally unable to support their pitching staff like the Korean team. To make things worse, the USA pitchers all struggled with their control despite throwing some serious heat.

Key Game Notes:

– The 1st inning went well, USA scored a run on a Jeremy Martinez single, and the starting pitcher, right-hander Keegan Thompson, came out throwing hard (90 m/hr). Thompson gave up a hit, but got out of the inning unscathed.

– In the 2nd inning, Thompson started to struggle, giving up 2 singles. then with 2 outs, the first turning point of the game –  after getting two strikes on the batter, the Umpire awarded the batter a ‘hit-by-pitch’ on what was a very questionable call. The catcher for USA complained immediately. If the pitch hit the batter, it could have only just grazed him. Either way, it loaded the bases, and brought up Kim, IT, who is one of Korea’s best hitters (3 for 5 coming into the game). Thompson walked Kim to bring in a run.

– The 3rd inning was marked by exellent defense by the Korean infield, forcing the USA to go 3 up and 3 down. In stark contrast, the Korean team got their start in the 3rd inning on an error by  Dom Nunez (3B) that allowed the runner to get to 2nd base with no outs. Nunez redeemed himself in the 6th inning when he snagged a groundball and threw home to get the out and prevent a run rather than taking the easy out at 1B (the Koreans had runners on first and third with no outs).

– After the 3rd inning, the Koreans continued to increase their lead by earning a lot of walks and then being aggressive on the basepaths.

– The 6th inning was the real turning point. After Ian Clarkin injured his hand, RHP Kevin Davis came in to pitch for USA. Davis was throwing hard – the scoreboard said 90 mph. Despite his power, the Korean #4 batter, Yoon, smashed a deep ball over the head of the LF that scored 3 runs.

– USA had a chance to get back into the game in the 8th inning. After two singles and a walk, they had the bases loaded with only 1 out. The batter, Cavan Biggio, is the “clean-up” hitter, so with the score 7-2, a HR would have brought USA within one run.  Cavan Biggio grounded to the right side of the infield for a double-play. He also hit into a double-play in the 6th.

– Chris Okey played a great game behind the plate. He was dealing with frequent balls in the dirt from more than one of the pitchers, and he managed to keep all of them but one in front of him. He also made a great diving catch on a foul pop-up for an important out. He hurt himself on the play and remained down on the field for a few minutes. A few of the Korean fans actually tried to get a “USA, USA, USA” chant going while the player was down.

EDITOR’s Update: Since this article was written, TEAM USA has defeated Columbia 11-1.