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USA Olympic Team in North Carolina - Game 1

USA Baseball Collegiate National Team versus the United States National Baseball Team

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I pointed out in a prior post on DRaysBay that USA Baseball, who’s home office is located in Durham is the national governing body for organized baseball in the United States. Their National Training Complex is in Cary, NC about 17 miles to the south of Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham.

The photo above shows the main baseball field at their National Training Complex, which is named Coleman Field. The view that it shows is of the infield and seating areas as seen from the complex’s entrance area near the left field corner.

Among USA Baseball’s key responsibilities is the formation and training of the United States National Baseball Team, which is also known as their professional team. That team competes in all international tournaments, such as the Olympics. However, USA Baseball also forms, trains, and coordinates the play of a Collegiate National Team that competes in US based competitions. This year they had two national college teams named the Stars and the Stripes that played each other at their National Training Complex and at the ballparks of teams of the Appalachian League.

From Sunday July 18, 2021 through Tuesday July 20th, the United States National Baseball Team tuned up for the Olympics by playing a three game exhibition series versus the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. The first and third games were played at Coleman Field at the Baseball USA National Training Complex in Cary, NC and the Monday game was at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC. As pointed out in an earlier DraysBay post, I attended the first two game of that series.

Team USA on Coleman Field at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.

Game 1: Collegiate National Team versus United States National Baseball Team at Baseball USA National Training Complex—July 18, 2021

In game 1, at Baseball USA’s National Training Complex, the United States National Baseball Team was the home team and the Collegiate National Team the visitor. The photo above shows the Team USA players on Coleman Field. The Collegiate National Team’s starter was right hand pitcher Gabriel Hughes. During the 2021 college baseball season, Hughes pitched his first season for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs and was selected to be a member of Collegiate Baseball’s 2021 Freshman All-America Team.

However, Hughes was faced off against a very experienced starter in the game. The United States National Baseball Team sent left hander Scott Kazmir to the mound. As highlighted in my prior DRaysBay post about the Team USA roster, Kazmir has played thirteen seasons of Major League Baseball and earlier in 2021 had pitched for both the San Francisco Giants and their AAA team in the Triple-A West League—the Sacramento River Cats.

Designated hitter Patrick Kivlehhan connecting with a pitch.

The United States National Baseball Team’s offense quickly opened a large lead in the game. In the bottom of the first inning, Team USA loaded the bases with two out on back to back singles by number two hitter Eddy Alvarez (2B) and number 3 batter Todd Frazier (3B), then a walk to left fielder, #5 hitter Jamie Westbrook. That brought their #6 batter, right fielder Eric File to the plate. He singled up the middle to drive in Alvarez and Frazier with runs 1 and 2 of the innings. But, the United States National Baseball Team was not yet done.

The next hitter, DH Patrick Kivlehhan drove a Hughes pitch over the left field fence for a 3 run homer. The photo of here shows Kivlehan at the plate connecting with that home run pitch. At the end of one inning of play, the USA Baseball professional team had broken out to a 5 run to 0 lead.

Team USA rallied again in the bottom of the second. Leading off in that inning, number 8 hitter, catcher Mark Kolozsvary reached first when hit by a pitch and then advanced to third on a double by #9 batter, Nick Allen (SS). That brought leadoff hitter, center fielder Jack Lopez to the plate with runners in scoring position on third and second base. He hit a sacrifice fly that enabled Kolozsvary to race home with run 1 of the inning.

Next, second baseman Eddy Alvarez came up and drove the third pitch delivered to him over the center field fence for a 2-run homer. The United States National Baseball Team had put three more unanswered runs on the scoreboard to extend their lead over the Collegiate National Team to 8-0.

Meanwhile, Scott Kazmir was harnessing the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team’s offense. First he threw three no-hit innings; faced just 9 batters; and retired 6 of those 9 hitters via the strikeout. But in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Collegiate National Team struck fast. Their #1 hitter, left fielder Brock Jones (Stanford University) hit a leadoff single and then crossed the plate on a 2-run homer by #2 hitter, first baseman Jacob Berry (University of Arizona).

But Kazmir retired the next three batters to shut down that rally and then pitched a scoreless fifth inning. Overall, he threw 5 complete innings and his pitching line for the day was: runs scored (2), hits (3), base on balls (0), and strikeouts (9). The photo here shows Scott Kazmir delivering a pitch to a Collegiate National Team batter in the game.

As highlighted in my earlier United States National Baseball Team roster post on DRaysBay, Scott Kazmir has a connection to both the Durham Bulls and their Major League affiliate—the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kazmir made his Major League debut with Tampa Bay and pitched the first six (2004-2009) of his current thirteen seasons in the majors with the Rays. Moreover, during both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, he made a single game rehab pitching appearances with the Durham Bulls.

The three Collegiate National Team right hand relievers that followed Gabe Hughes, Paul Skenes (United States Air Force Academy), Aaron Nixon (University of Texas), and Jack Washburn (Oregon State University) , tamed the United States National Baseball Team’s offense after the second inning. Team USA did have a runner in scoring position in both the 3rd and 4th innings, but those potential rallies were successfully shut down.

Overall, that Collegiate Team’s trio of relievers limited them to six base runners (3 on hits and 3 on walks) and did not allow any runners to cross the plate.

Jacob Berry

The three relievers that followed Kazmir for the United States National Baseball Team, Brandon Dickson (RHP), Edwin Jackson (RHP), and Anthony Gross (LHP). succeeded in closing out the game for a United States National Baseball Team win.

However, along the way, they allowed the National Collegiate Team 1 run on 4 hits. That run was scored in the top of the 7th inning off Edwin Jackson, who had taken over to start that innings. The first batter he faced, the Collegiate National Team’s #5 hitter, catcher Hayden Dunhurst (Ole Miss Rebels) singled. That brought #6 hitter, second baseman Robert Moore (Arkansas Razorbacks) to the plate.

Moore bunted for a hit, but Dunhurst was thrown out at second on the play. Then, #7 and #8 hitters, designated hitter Kyle Teel (Virginia Cavaliers) and center fielder Drew Gilbert (Tennessee Volunteers) hit back to back singles. Moore crossed the plate on Gilbert’s RBI single. Jackson just faced those four batters and gave up the solo run on three singles.

With one down in the 7th and runners on first and second base, Anthony Grose came in to replace Jackson. However, he threw a wild pitch that enabled Teel and Gilbert the advance to third and second, respectively. But, the Grose retired the next two batters to secure a Team USA 8-3 victory.

Scott Kazmir, who as pointed out earlier, pitched the first five innings and departed with an 8 run to 2 lead, got the win for the United States National Baseball Team.

Eddy Alvarez

The United States National Baseball Team Offense Leader of the Day

The leader of Team USA’s offense for the game was second baseman Eddy Alvarez. As highlighted earlier, he played a role in both their first and second inning rallies. The photo above shows Alvarez at the plate in the game versus the Collegiate National team at Coleman Field. In that game, he had 3 hits in 4 trips to the plate, scored a run in both rallies, and even stole a base. As highlighted in my earlier DRaysBay post, he played for the Miami Marlins AAA team in the Triple-A East League, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, during the first half of the 2021 season and had made his Major League debut with the Marlins in 2020 at the age of 30.

Eddy Alvarez also had an earlier connection to Minor League Baseball played in North Carolina. He was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2014 and played for their three Minor League clubs in NC during the early years of his Minor League career—the Kannapolis Intimidators (South Atlantic League, A class) in 2014 and 2015, Winston-Salem Dash (Carolina League, A+ class) in 2015, and Charlotte Knights (International League, AAA class) in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, the White Sox traded Alvarez to the Miami Marlins during the 2018 offseason.

But, there is another quite interesting sports story about Eddy Alvarez. Alvarez did not grow up just playing baseball. He also was an exceptional speed skater. In fact, he was so good at speed skating that he succeeded in making the United States team for the 2014 Winter Olympics. In that Olympic, which took place in Sochi, Russia, he appeared in three individual events, but was also a member of USA’s team for the 5000 meter relay. The USA relay team won second place in that race and for that Alvarez and the other members of the team received a Silver Metal. So Eddy Alvarez is on his way to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympic games with the goal of winning another medal—hopefully the GOLD.

Walter Triebel is the author of “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities” published by McFarland. It is available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon. Walter previously spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and has led an extensive career as a textbook and reference book author. You can follow him on twitter here.