The Peninsula Pilots managed to keep pace with the USA Collegiate National Team, but fell just short, losing 1-0 at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
The USA team is composed of some of the best freshman and sophomore collegiate players in the country. The exhibition gave Pilots players a chance to measure their talents with some of the best that college baseball has to offer.
Team USA pitchers dominated the Pilots' hitters, with the help of some fantastic fielding, allowing only three hits in the game. Starting pitcher Luke Weaver, a right-hander from Florida State, struck out seven Pilots in 4 1/3 innings.
After Weaver exited the game in the fifth inning, the Team USA relievers kept the Pilots off the scoreboard with impressive performances by Miami's Chris Diaz, Texas Christian's Riley Ferrell and Arizona State's Ryan Burr.
“I was very impressed with the talent they had in that dugout,” Pilots coach Hank Morgan said. “A lot of those guys are going to be in the big leagues in a matter of years, so it was a great experience for our team.”
The game remained scoreless through the first five innings, as pitchers from both sides controlled the game. In the sixth inning, Team USA finally put a runner across home plate.
After Matt Chapman doubled to left field to lead off the top of the sixth, a groundout moved him over to third base. Chapman went home a couple pitches of later when a wild pitch by Denbigh High graduate Aaron Myers of Longwood skipped past the Pilots' catcher to the backstop.
The Pilots managed to keep the national team from scoring after that, thanks to great plays in the outfield by Bradon Reitano and Garrett Brooks. The Virginia Cavaliers' Mike Papi had two hits for Team USA.
Despite only recording three hits, the Pilots threatened to score on multiple occasions, with their best chance coming in the bottom of the fifth inning.
After a Zach Lopes single, Bill Cullen drew a walk and Reitano reached on an infield single to load the bases with two outs. Diaz battled with the next batter before forcing him to ground to the shortstop to end the inning.
Morgan said he was encouraged by the way his team competed despite returning from its loss in Florence, S.C., at 5:30 a.m. Saturday and a rain delay that postponed Saturday's game by about two hours.
“We played with great energy tonight, and we need to duplicate that throughout the rest of the season,” said Morgan, whose team is 10-10 in the Coastal Plain League. “I am hoping that this will be a springboard that we can use going into Monday’s game.”
Team USA 1, Pilots 0
Team USA, 000 001 000 – 1 8 3
Peninsula, 000 000 000 – 0 3 1
WP: Diaz. LP: A. Myers. Save: Burr. Standouts: Team USA, Chapman 1-4 (1 run), Papi 2-4, Maddox 3-4; Peninsula, Reitano 1-4 (2 steals), Lopes 2-2.
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