OMAHA, Neb. – UCLA rising junior Gerrit Cole allowed one run and struck out seven batters in six innings to lead the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team past Japan, 4-1, on Wednesday evening at Rosenblatt Stadium in a friendly international game.
Cole (1-0) was impressive from the start, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced. Team USA’s bullpen was equally dominant, as Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt) and Noe Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) worked the final three innings, scattering two hits and notching one pair of strikeouts.
UCLA’s rising junior catcher Steve Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with one run in Team USA’s victory.
Japan’s Takayuki Fujii (0-1) absorbed the loss, surrendering four runs (three earned) on 11 hits in eight innings, issuing six walks and collecting three strikeouts. Fujii threw 143 pitches and faced 39 batters.
Wednesday’s start marked Cole’s third appearance on the mound at Rosenblatt Stadium this summer. The 6-foot-4 product from Santa Ana, Calif., made two starts for UCLA in the College World Series last month at Rosenblatt Stadium. Cole’s most dominant effort at the historic ballpark came in a 5-3 win over TCU on June 21, as the right-hander logged 13 strikeouts and two walks in that game.
Team USA led 1-0 against Japan in the first inning, as Nolan Fontana (Florida) grounded out to second base, scoring Drew Maggi (Arizona State) from third base. Maggi led off the game with a triple to right-center field.
Team USA added two more runs in the second inning to lead, 3-0. Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt) drew an inning-opening walk and advanced to second base Rodriguez’s base-hit up the middle. After a successful double steal by Esposito and Rodriguez, Maggi lifted a run-scoring fly ball to center, scoring Esposito. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (South Carolina) singled to right with runners on the corners, scoring Rodriguez before Fontana was thrown out at home.
Japan scored its lone run of the game in the fourth inning, reducing Team USA’s cushion to 3-1 when Takasi Ikusima doubled home Ryunisuke Kkobayasi with a shot to left-center field.
The USA National Team scored its final run in the eighth inning when Mike Mahtook (LSU) touched home on a passed ball, pushing Team USA’s advantage to 4-1. Mahtook singled up the middle with two outs, stole second base, moved to third on Fontana’s bunt single back to the pitcher, before advancing on the passed ball.
Cole and Rodriguez were among a group of nine Team USA players who played in the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium and suited up for the last-ever amateur baseball game at Rosenblatt Stadium (also Jackie Bradley, Jr., Nolan Fontana, Sean Gilmartin, Brian Johnson, Drew Maggi, Brad Miller and Kyle Winkler).