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Sue Bush
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SteepleCats Tumble To Team USA 9-1

By Jen Thomas
04:29AM / Thursday, June 21, 2007

Team USA baseball players during the National Anthem at last night's exhibition game with the SteepleCats in North Adams. [Photo by Paul Guillotte]
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North Adams - The SteepleCats fell to Team USA in a tough 9-1 loss during last night's baseball game.

Steeplecats players said they were happy to have been part of the Team USA event.

Flash Video* Video can be see here

"It’s an honor just to step on the field with these guys," said Max Pinto, the designated hitter for the SteepleCats. The SteepleCats are ranked third in their division as they prepare to face the Manchester Silkworms tonight during an away game.

"We’re fortunate to use this experience as a building block," Pinto said.

Starting pitcher Nick McCully, 18, of Lakeland, Fla., said he wasn’t nervous about challenging a team composed of the best collegiate players in the country.

"This is just a fun game for us," he said.

McCully pitched five innings, giving up seven runs, striking out five batters and hitting one with a pitch. The Coastal Carolina University freshman played well most of the game, holding Team USA to two runs through four innings. In the fifth inning, he gave up five runs when Ryan Flaherty doubled in Danny Espinosa. Flaherty later scored when the SteepleCats threw the ball away trying to catch him stealing third base.


Game action [Photo by Paul Guillotte]
McCully then walked Pedro Alvarez and gave up back to back homeruns to Justin Smoak and Roger Kieschnick which brought the score to 7-1 in favor of Team USA.

"We competed," said General Manager Sean McGrath. "We didn’t play our best game, but it’s a great opportunity for our [players] to challenges themselves and take their game to the next level."

Former SteepleCat In The Game

The match-up was especially bittersweet for former SteepleCats first baseman Jeremy Hamilton, who has played his last two games with Team USA for a try-out.

"Everybody’s out to get you when you have ‘Team USA’ written across your chest, but it was good to play against those guys," said the 20-year old from Cincinnati.

Out of four times at the plate, Hamilton made it on base three times. He was caught stealing third base in the third inning and struck out in the fourth. In the eighth inning, he hit a ground ball, breaking his bat, to the second baseman. The ball was overthrown to the first baseman, allowing Hamilton to advance to second base on the error.

Hamilton said the final cut for Team USA is on June 25, but he’s not about to speculate on where he’ll end up.

"I’m just going to take it a day at a time and see where it goes," he said.

And though his teammates jokingly threatened to hit him with a pitch during the game, Hamilton said the SteepleCat players have been "really supportive."

"Jeremy’s a great kid and I’d rather have him on our side, but I wish him the best," said outfielder Ozzie Borrell.

"I told him when he went 'Everytime you wear the Team USA jersey, it’s special. Appreciate it,'" said McGrath.

"Tomorrow's Another Day"

The SteepleCats lone run came in the second inning when Branson Joseph scored after he reached base on an infield hit. He moved to second and third base after the Team USA catcher allowed a ball to pass him. While Thomas DiBenedetto was stealing second, Team USA catcher Landon Hernandez overthrew, allowing Joseph to score.

"They’re really, really good and I expected them to win," said Borrell. "We don’t see that kind of pitching everyday. They’re a good ball club."

"Tomorrow’s another day," said 9th inning pitcher Jeremiah Bayer.

"We’ve got some pretty good athletes, too," said Head Coach Al Leyva.

The North Adams and Williamstown K-9 units attended "Hometowm Heroes Night" at Joe Wolfe Field. [Photo by Paul Guillotte]


With what McGrath termed "the best of the best" in collegiate baseball players on the field and dozens of scouts in the stands, the SteepleCats had great company at Wednesday’s game, but Team USA Coach Michael Weathers said the pleasure was all his.

"[The SteepleCats] do it first-class here," he said.

Team USA has been playing together as a team for two days and plans to play New England Collegiate Baseball League teams the Keene Swamp Bats, Vermont Mountaineers, Torrington Twisters and Newport Gulls before heading to the Pan American Games in Brazil mid-July.

In conjunction with the exhibition game, Joe Wolfe Field hosted "Hometown Heroes Night," and area firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians attended the game for free. Before the players took the field, firefighters and EMTs offered tours of their trucks to area children and the city and Williamstown police department canine law enforcement units introduced specially trained dogs Diva and Blue.

Jen Thomas may be reached via e-mail at jthomas@iberkshires.com or at 413-663-3384 ext. 23.
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