Saturday, September 12th, 2009 - † The 10th annual YCAC US-UN challenge†was played under threatening skies this past weekend.†† The US-UN game was born in 2000 when the International YCAC baseball players challenged the American players to a one game show down to see who was king of the diamond.† Since then, the US-UN game has been a major event on the YCAC baseball calendar with each side scouting the other throughout the season.† The 2009 game looked in doubt as rain moved in on game day.† Luckily,† the weather cooperated and the skies cleared at game time.† The UN had won the right to play as home team by defeating the USA 4-2 in a tremendous 10 inning pitchers duel in 2008.†††
† No one knew what to expect when UN pitcher (Turkey) took the hill to face the first US batter, Buddy Ferry.† Ferry and Altinbay battled each other for 10 pitches with Ferry finally working a walk.† The first at-bat was a sign that the entire game would be a battle for both sides.† Ferry came around to score later in the inning to put the USA in the lead 1-0.†††
† The US pitcher, Chris Corron, came out firing in the bottom of the 1st inning, retiring all three UN hitters on only 10 pitches, all strikes.† The US stuck again in the top of the 2nd inning with Ferry hitting a 2 out double that drove in two runs to put the US on top 3-0.† The UN fought back in the 2nd scoring 3 runs to tie the score.†††
† The game continued to be a back and forth struggle.† Each team taking advantage of errors by the other side and making big plays.† The lower half of the UN order did significant damage with Altinbay and Erwin Matti (Philippines) leading the way with 3 hits each and a combined 4 RBI.† Chris Kelly (Canada) chipped in with a clutch 2 out double to score 2 late in the game. However, with the exception of two girly-man bunt singles by Dan Reynolds (Canada), the top four UN hitters were held to a total of one hit on the day.
††† The USA offense, by contrast was more balanced with† 8 of 9 players picking up at least one hit and piling up 16 hits in all.† Brian Pipes had a break out day with a single, triple and a long home run over the 30 foot net in the deepest part of the park.† Ferry also collected three hits while scoring two runs and posting three RBI.† A key point in the game came after a lead off triple by Pipes.† The next two US hitters were unable to drive Pipes in and it looked as though the US might waste Pipesís hit.† 15 year old Brent Robbins however stepped up and lashed a single to left bringing in the run.† Robbins also contributed a key sacrifice bunt later the game that set up another USA run.†
† The game entered the 9th inning with the USA on top 9-8, the difference being Pipesís home run in the previous inning.† The USA put two men on for Todd Wiley with two outs.† Wiley had punished off-speed pitches from Altinbay all day and had already collected 3 hits.† With insurance runs on base, Wiley uncorked a wild swing & grunt combination on the first pitch that drew a chuckle† from the umpire.† No one was laughing however when Wiley connected on his next swing, hammering a towering double deep into the gap in left-center.†† Both runners scored easily, extending the Americanís lead to 11-8.††
† The UN refused to give up in the bottom of the 9th, and with one out, Reynolds reached base on an infield error.† Corron, who labored through an estimated 180 pitched, then lost all feel for the strike zone.† He walked Zack Niederhauser (Switzerland) on four pitches, almost hitting the young short stop twice.†† Next, Hong Yeol Park (South Korea) smashed a savage one hopper off the wrist of 3rd baseman Hiroshi Alley to load the bases with one out.† Corron then walked clean-up hitter Paul Baclay (Japan) to force in a run.†† Altinbay then stepped to the plate with the tying run on second.† He†hooked a low line drive that Alley was able to knock down.† The ball rolled away, but Alley (now feeling like he was in a shooting gallery) recovered, picked up the ball and stepped on third, forcing Park for the second out as Niederhauser scored. † With Matti then at the plate, both runners boldly stole the next base.† This put the tying run on third and the winning run on second for Matti, who had hammered the ball all day.† Corron reached back and was able to get two quick strikes on Matti before the count went full.† Catcher Ignacio Lara then called a curve ball on the 3-2 count.† Matti pounded the ball into the gap between 3rd and short.† Baclay broke for home and Altinbay (who had a massive lead off of second) broke for 3rd.† Ferry fielded the ball on the run to his right and, following his momentum, flipped the ball to Alley at 3rd.† Alley then tagged Altinbay at the base for the last out with Baclay only steps away from crossing home.†
† The game ended, USA-11, UN-10.† The US victory evened the series at 5 games each.† There was much celebrating and sportsmanship after the game with exhausted hand shakes all around.† Everyone agreed it had been the most exciting game of the 2009 season and one of the best in the US-UN series.† Three out of the last four US-UN games have been decided in the last inning.†† Both teams retreated to the Breezeway for beers, food and to rehash the game.† The UN vowed revenge and had already begun planning for next year.