Triston Casas hit a game-changing two-run homer in the fourth inning to send world No. 4 USA to the knockout stage as the Group B winner after a 4-2 win over defending gold medallists and world No. 3 Korea in the last game of group play. USA will face Japan on Monday, 7 p.m. JST time, for a place in the semifinal.
In Korea’s first at bat, the defending Olympic champions scored the first run of the game on an RBI grounder by Hyun Soo Kim. Back to back singles by Hae-Min Park and Jung-Hoo Lee put runners in the corners with no outs, and the Premier12 2015 MVP cashed in with a soft grounder to second base to make it 1-0.
After those two hits to open the game, USA starter Nick Martínez settled down and retired 14 of the next 16 Korean hitters, allowing only a pair of scattered hits in the third and fifth innings. He struck out nine of these 14 opponents, and totalled four hits and one run allowed. He was the winner of tonight’s game.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, USA jumped ahead on Casas’ 2-run home run that he sent into the right field seats, crushing a low off-speed pitch. Casas was the 2017 WBSC Player of the Year, following his MVP performance at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup that year.
One inning later Nick Allen delivered a solo home run to left field to give USA a two-run lead. The US shortstop launched a curveball from Youngpyo Ko deep into the stands of Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Ko was pulled out after a two-out hit off the bat of Jamie Westbrook, who moments later scored on an RBI single by Tyler Austin off reliever Woo-Suk Go.
Scott McGough pitched a scoreless sixth for USA and handled the ball to Edwin Jackson, a veteran who has played for a record-setting 14 MLB teams. Jackson struck out the first two hitters he faced, but then walked Ji-Hwan Oh and hit Kyoungmin Hur with a pitch. Mike Scioscia sent former Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Gose to the mound, and the flame-thrower retired the next four hitters in a row, displaying a blistering fastball that topped 97 mph (157 km/h).
David Robertson took the ball in the ninth and immediately walked Baek-ho Kang (another 2017 U-18 Baseball World Cup star), and served a double to Euiji Yang, leaving two runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Jaeil Oh made it a two-run ballgame, but Robertson struck out Ji-Hwan Oh and USA’s Jack López made a highlight reel grab and throw from third base to end the game.
USA won their two games in Group B and will play against Japan, the Group A winner, on Monday at 7 p.m. JST. By winning their groups, both teams have secured at least a place in the bronze medal game. Korea will play tomorrow 7 p.m. JST against Dominican Republic the first game of the knockout stage.