By Adam Hensley
Team USA struggled to find offense in a low-scoring match against Mexico in the opening round of the World University Games on Aug. 20 in Taipei, Taiwan.
Against Russia, USA’s offense fired on all cylinders — so much so that the game concluded after seven innings because of the run-rule.
USA, represented by the Iowa baseball team, toppled Russia, 13-3, at New Taipei City Xinzhuang Stadium.
“It was a good night for us, we got the bats going,” head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “Early in the game, we had opportunities but didn’t get the two-out hit. After the third inning, guys loosened up, and we started barreling some balls up. The bats came to life, and guys up and down the lineup started getting comfortable. That was good to see.”
Notching 3 hits in the victory against Mexico, USA exploded for 14, feasting off Russia’s pitchers.
Russia used five pitchers, and all but one allowed at least 2 hits and 2 runs.
The top three of USA’s batting order combined for 8 hits, finishing 8-of-13 at the plate.
Junior outfielder Chris Whelan recorded 3 hits and 4 RBIs in a robust leadoff effort, with sophomore Ben Norman (2 hits, 3 RBIs), and junior Robert Neustrom (3 hits, 2 RBIs) following suit.
“It was huge to get the offense going to be able to conserve pitching,” Whelan said in a release. “We only threw two pitchers, and that was big. Sammy [Lizarraga] gave us a big start, and the offense was fortunate to start clicking in the middle innings. [Neustrom] had a big night, and guys were getting on base left and right. It was good to see everyone start swinging the bat.”
USA’s two junior pitchers, Lizarraga and Cole McDonald, only allowed 3 hits.
Lizarraga started the game, earning the win. He pitched 5.1 innings and struck out 7, keeping Russia’s batters guessing at the plate.
“It felt good,” Lizarraga said in a release. “Going into the game, my goal was to pound the zone, and throw strikes, and let them put it in play to let my defense make plays behind me. I feel like I accomplished that pretty well. I was happy with how it went.”
His coach said Lizarraga was “exactly what [he] needed.”
“He threw a lot of strikes and competed,” Heller said in a release. “Cole came in, and got his feet wet, and we got out of here in seven, which is a good thing with the quick turnaround.”
Through the first two games of the World University Games, USA’s pitching effort looks solid, with 20 strikouts and a 2.25 ERA.
USA needed a bounce-back game after falling into a sloppy, inconsistent battle with Mexico, which featured 5 errors.
With the batting and pitching clicking — as well as a clean game error-wise — USA found the recipe for success.
USA faced Japan in its third game of the tournament, starting at 10 p.m. (CDT). The game was not complete by the time of publication. A recap will be published in The Daily Iowan in Thursday’s paper.