For the second year in a row, a pitcher from The Woodlands, Texas, is proving to be the ace of the staff for Team USA 18U.
Last year, Jameson Taillon
of The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas)
received national recognition following his performance at the Pan Am Games against Cuba. He struck out 16 in the championship game to lead Team USA to its first ever Pan Am Games championship. Taillon parlayed that performance into a No. 2 overall selection in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft last June, going to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This year, College Park (The Woodlands, Texas)
graduate John Simms
is having similar success for Team USA at the IBAF 'AAA' 18U Junior World Championships in Thunder Bay, Canada. In his one outing so far at the Junior Worlds, Simms was sensational, striking out 11 batters in a 10-0 win over Italy on Sunday. He threw six shutout innings and gave up only two hits with one walk.
Drafted in the 39th round of the MLB draft by the Washington Nationals, Simms has also committed to play baseball next year at Rice. In high school, Simms played in the same district as Taillon and was twice named the district player of the year over Taillon.
of Pinecrest (Southern Pines, N.C.)
threw the final inning to complete the seven-inning shutout win over Italy.
Simms and Maples received plenty of offensive help from their Team USA teammates. Francisco Lindor
of Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
was 3-for-3 at the plate, including an RBI double in the first inning. Christian Lopes
of Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
also had an RBI double in the second. Tony Wolters
of Rancho Buena Vista (Vista, Calif.)
, Michael Lorenzen
of Fullerton (Fullerton, Calif.)
, and Marcus Littlewood
of Pine View (St. George, Utah)
all had one double each for Team USA, which had eight hits in the game.
The victory lifted Team USA's record in pool play to 2-0. Team USA opened pool play on Saturday with a 4-2 win over Australia. After falling behind 1-0 in the third inning, Team USA registered two runs in the fifth and sixth innings before giving up a single run in the ninth.
Wolters drove in Lorenzen to tie the score in the fifth inning and he later scored on Littlewood's double. In the sixth, Lopes and Brian Ragira
of Martin (Arlington, Texas)
both walked and Lorenzen drove them home with a basehit to centerfield.A.J. Vanegas
of Redwood Christian (San Lorenzo, Calif.)
went six innings to get the win. He struck out eight batters and allowed one run on four hits. John Hochstatter
of San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.)
threw the final three frames and struck out four while allowing one run on two hits.
During the exhibition portion of the schedule leading up to the Junior World Championships, Team USA posted a 12-1 record with the only loss coming against Team Canada, 4-3, in a series of games in St. Paul, Minn.
Team USA was 5-0 against a group of New York All-Stars during the second week of July. USA outscored its opponents 42-10 during the five-game stretch with a pair of shutouts.
From July 12 to July 20, Team USA went 8-1 against a group of teams from Minnesota and Canada including another pair of shutout wins.
Three starting pitchers entered the Junior World Championships with three wins each. Simms had a 3-0 record with a 1.80 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched. Meanwhile Henry Owens
of Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
and Phillip Pfeifer
of Farragut (Knoxville, Tenn.)
, both of whom return for their senior seasons in 2011, were also 3-0. Owens had given up just two earned runs in 15 innings while striking out a team-high 27 batters. Pfeifer had a 3.14 ERA, but was also 3-0 with 21 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched.Blake Swihart
, a catcher from Cleveland (Rio Rancho, N.M.)
, led the offense with a .464 batting average in nine games played. he also led the team in home runs with two. He returns for his senior year next season.
Wolters led the team in several categories during the exhibition season. He had the most at-bats (55), runs (13), hits (21) and doubles (5). He was third in the team in batting average at .382. Ragira batted .421, led the team in RBI (12) and was tied with Wolters for the team lead in doubles (5).
Others batting over .300 included Littlewood (.311), Bubba Starling (.308), a returning senior from Gardner-Edgerton (Gardner, Kan.)
and Nicky Delmonico
(.308) of Farragut.
Team USA played Chinese Taipei on Monday and will play Venezuela on Tuesday. It concludes pool play with France on Wednesday morning before heading into the playoffs on Friday.