USA rallies to escape upset minded Republic of South Africa in Men’s Softball World Championship

Written by Bob on July 13th, 2017

WHITEHORSE, YK, CanadaKevin Castillo gave Team USA hope, Matt Ratliff gave them new life, and Tyler Dudley gave them the winning run as the United States rallied in extra innings to defeat the Republic of South Africa, 4-3, Thursday night in the final game of pool play.

The win moves Team USA (5-2) into Friday’s first-round of playoffs in the Men’s Softball World Championship at the Pepsi Softball Centre in Whitehorse. RSA, playing well in the tournament, drops to 2-5.

But in the bottom of the seventh, victory seemed improbable with Team USA trailing 3-0 and down to their final out.

Castillo, however, had other ideas.

The Long Beach native blasted a solo home run off a Tioma Kekana rise ball to pull the USA within a pair of runs. Then pinch hitting Chase Turner blooped a single into short centerfield bringing Ratliff to the plate.

And the left-side hitting right fielder launched a two-run shot over the centerfield fence to pull his ball club even.

Kekana, who pitched a great game through 6 2/3 innings, retired Bryce Kay on a ground out to escape further damage and send the game into extra innings.

Kekana held the Americans to five hits, three earned runs with eight strikeouts.

With the game tied, the eighth inning started with an RSA runner at second base under the international tiebreaker rule.

But Team USA’s, Tony Mancha, who went the distance, really toughened by striking out his 18th and 19th batters to keep RSA from scoring.

Now it was up to Team USA to nail down the win.

Bryce Kay trotted out to second base to start the bottom of the eighth, and he moved over to third base on a passed ball. Kekana retired Matt Palazzo on a ground out. He then pitched carefully to Team USA’s hottest hitter, Erick Ochoa, who ended up working Kekana for a walk.

That brought Dudley to the plate.

Up to that point, Kekana had struck him out twice. But not this time. Dudley squared up on an inside pitch, driving the ball screaming over the third base bag and sending Kay home with the winning run.

Dudley’s game winner also gave him some redemption.

RSA scored its three runs in the second inning with two outs after Dudley misplayed a ground ball at second base that kept the inning alive.

William Thomason followed with single and Javier Frost homered to give RSA the grand idea of upsetting the Americans.

But after giving up that homer, Mancha was nearly untouchable, allowing just one hit over the final six innings, a single by Phomolo Phaladi in the fifth. Other than that, Mancha struck out 13 of the final 19 batters he faced.

He finished with a three hitter, 19 strikeouts and no walks to improve his record to 2-2 in the tournament, and lead Team USA to a final 5-2 mark in Pool A.

(The final pool standings that determine playoff seeding won’t be available until after the game between Argentina and Dominican Republic being played late Thursday is finished.)

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