USA beats Guatemala, qualifies for IX Pan American fastpitch playoffs

Written by Bob on October 30th, 2014

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PARANA, ARGENTINA – It wasn’t a dominating win, but it certainly was clutch.

The United States Men’s National Fastpitch Team wheedled out a single run and pitcher Tony Mancha made do with it.

The right-hander came through with his finest performance, holding Guatemala (1-6) to just one hit with 15 strikeouts, in leading the USA to a 1-0 victory in the final game for both teams in round-robin play of the IX Pan Am games, Thursday.

“Tony pitched another great game,” said Head Coach Denny Bruckert (Gillespie, Ill.). “Our bats aren’t exploding but we’re playing really great defense. Today is a new day and we’re going to have a tough rematch with Argentina tonight.”

It was a must win for the USA (4-2) that captures the fourth seed in the round-robin, and qualifies the American squad for the “Final Four” medal round playoffs that start Friday. They will take on Argentina, which beat Canada 3-2 to nail down the No. 2 seed. In the other playoff game, No. 1 seed Canada battles No. 3 seeded Venezuela.

But without Mancha’s shutout performance, Team USA would be heading home.

Mancha (2-2 record, 29 innings, and 46 strikeouts in six games) carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, before Alvaro Dacaret’s single to center field spoiled his effort for the clean sweep. Other than Dacaret, the only Guatemalan to reach base was Alex Funes, who walked to lead off the game.

Mancha finished off Guatemala in the bottom of the seventh like a man on a mission.

He struck out the first two batters he faced with rise balls, and then got a ground ball out to third baseman Derrick Zechman, who threw over to Matt Palazzo for the final out of the game, sending USA into the playoffs.

As for that lone USA run? Zechman did the honors.

The right-side hitting third baseman, batting No. 7 in the lineup, singled in the second inning, driving in Frank DeGroat Jr., who led off with a base hit to left field.

“It felt good to finally contribute and help the team,” said Zechman. “I’ve been struggling at the plate the whole tournament, so to help our team secure a playoff game meant a lot. It was a great team win to get us in the playoffs.”

Other than that, the USA was only able to garner five hits off Guatemala’s Jose Aparicio, Cesar Saiche, and Jorge Sequra. The trio struck out eight Americans, with Saiche getting five, and Segura three.

For the USA, Chase Turner was 2-for-3, and Chris Miljavic, DeGroat, Jr., and Zechman (RBI) each had one hit.

Now, the USA awaits the playoff pairings, which should be announced later tonight after the final game between Canada (6-0) and Argentina (4-2), or early tomorrow morning.

To follow the tournament, visit: Team USA.

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