A brilliant 13-strikeout performance by Ethan Hankins and a walk-off home run by Jarred Kelenic lifted USA Baseball's 18U National Team to an 11-1 run-rule victory (eight innings) over the Netherlands on Friday afternoon in Thunder Bay, Ontario.The contest marked the opening game of the 2017 World Baseball Softball Confederation
A brilliant 13-strikeout performance by Ethan Hankins and a walk-off home run by Jarred Kelenic lifted USA Baseball's 18U National Team to an 11-1 run-rule victory (eight innings) over the Netherlands on Friday afternoon in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The contest marked the opening game of the 2017 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup.
"We knew coming in that the Netherlands is a really good team. I didn't expect to go out there and dominate," said Hankins. "I was just trying to put my team in a good situation and a place to win. I didn't know they would come out firing like that. It definitely made me settle in and make some adjustments."
Team USA, the three-time defending World Cup Champions, couldn't have started out any better. Three pitchers combined to allow just one run, which came in the first inning off of Hankins.
After allowing the first two batters of the game to reach base, one of which came around to score, Hankins settled in and was dominant the rest of the game. The right-hander would go on to retire 18 of the final 19 batters he faced.
"Hankins did a fantastic job of setting the tone for us. He didn't get rattled when things didn't go his way in the first inning, settled down and just did what he does," manager Andy Stankiewicz said. "He took the emotion out of it and did a job. He pounded the zone with his fastball, and his breaking ball was sharp. We saw a lot of chases in the dirt with it."
Mike Siani and Kelenic were unstoppable at the plate, combining to go 6-for-10 with four RBIs. Triston Casas and Raynel Delgado each had a pair of RBIs in the win.
"I think we had a little bit of first-game jitters. You have USA across your chest and guys are maybe trying to do a little too much," Stankiewicz said. "Obviously, Kelenic hit that home run to end it, but it was right down the line. If we stay within ourselves and play our line-drive game, we should be fine."
Team USA is looking to become the second country to win four straight gold medals in the tournament. The team's second game will be on Saturday against Japan.
"Japan is going to be well coached. Typically, they don't beat themselves, they make you work, and they don't give you any freebies," Stankiewicz said. "They are going to make you put the ball in play and play good defense. We expect a great ballgame from both teams, and hopefully, we will come out on top."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com.