Horses carrying Team USA in IX Pan Am games

Written by Bob on October 27th, 2014

PARANA, ARGENTINA – There’s a saying in fastpitch when a pitcher’s hot that goes something like this: “We’ll ride our big horse to the championship.”

Meaning of course, that the pitcher is throwing so well that the team climbs on his back and rides him to a tournament or league title.

Well, fortunately for the USA Men’s National Fastpitch Team, they have three big horses to ride. And all three of them – Tony Mancha, Josh Johnson, and Gerald Muiselaar – are pitching extraordinarily well in the IX Pan Am games.

Through Team USA’s first three games, the pitching staff has really been the deciding factor in the team’s 2-1 record. If the “Big Three” had faltered – had a bad inning or two in any one of those games – the team could be staring at an 0-3.

ERA is a leading statistic in evaluating a pitcher’s performance. All three are scintillating. In eight innings, Johnson is perfect at 0.00; Mancha nearly as good at 0.54 in 13 innings; and Muiselaar (a veteran of several international competitions), very respectable at 1.40.

Muizelaar is 1-0 after beating Cuba on Saturday with five innings of work, with Johnson and Mancha coming in to close out the nine-inning 2-1 win. And Johnson went seven shutout innings against Venezuela. He didn’t get the win, as Mancha came in for the final two innings of the 2-1, nine-inning affair to notch his first victory.

Mancha, new to Team USA, has been the team’s top hurler so far.

Against Mexico in the opening game, he went 11 innings striking out 18 and allowing but three hits and one earned run.

He was saddled with the loss because his teammates were quelled by Mexico’s Eduardo Escobedo, who struck out 11 on a four-hitter. Team USA’s lone run was unearned.

With a lineup including Matt Palazzo, Chris Miljavic, Derrick Zechman, Pat Sagdal, Chase Turner, and also featuring Mancha and Johnson – who swing the bat about as well as they pitch – you have to believe the team will start hitting. Eventually.

But right now the batting average hovers lowly at around .165. That’s not going to win a lot of ball games. The only batters hitting above .300 (minimum six at bats) are Sagdal at .364 (4-for-11) with 2 RBI, and Nate Devine, .333 (2-for-6), RBI.

Other than Sagdal and Devine, Palazzo is hitting a respectable .273 (3-for-11), 2 RBI. But after that the production drops way off.

I know; it’s still early in the tournament. There’s four games left in the round robin that leads into the playoffs. And with such a good-hitting lineup, Team USA’s hitters should start hitting and scoring runs.

But until that happens, Team USA will continue to ride its horses.

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