Ahead of Saturday’s game with Australia, Team USA manager Andy Stankiewicz was looking for California righthander Brandon Dieter to give the team five, maybe six solid innings.
Listed on the roster as an infielder, outfielder and pitcher, Brandon Dieter can do a little bit of everything for the Americans, and with their spot in the gold medal game secure after a 2-0 win over Korea Friday, a dominant performance wasn’t necessary.
But that’s just what Dieter gave, again showing the depth of the pitching staff that U.S. manager Andy Stankiewicz has at his disposal, and leading the Americans to an 8-0 victory--their eighth straight of the 2017 World Baseball Softball Confederation U18 World Cup in Thuder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
“The leadoff guy got on and he picked him off,” Stankiewicz said. “Then he got into his groove--he just started rolling.”
Dieter used a three-pitch mix including a fastball, curveball and changeup to navigate eight shutout innings against the Australians, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight batters. Perhaps more impressively, the South Hills (West Covina, Calif.) High product needed just 92 pitches to complete his eight frames--good for 11.5 pitches per innings.
“My No. 1 goal today was to be efficient,” Dieter said. “The coaches wanted me to go as many innings as I could so being efficient was the key. Throwing a lot of strikes, getting ahead early, and getting a lot of first-pitch outs was huge today."
Offensively, Team USA combined for 12 hits and walked four times, while striking out just twice. The first three batters of the order--Mike Siani, Carter Young and Jarred Kelenic--each had two-hit games, while first baseman Triston Casas walked three times on his own.
“I think it's more important to catch some rhythm at the plate,” Stankiewicz said. “See the ball--I think they did a good job of that. Australia didn't have the velocity that we've seen on its staff, so it was good, guys started to stay inside of it and work the middle of the diamond. Some nice hits to the opposite side.
“We've really been trying to get guys to buy into using gap-to-gap. These guys are so strong, and they hit the ball so far, they want to use the pull-side a lot and these are good pitchers. International teams know how to play. They know how to pitch. They do a good job establishing a fastball away and offspeed us a little bit. But it was good to see us use the middle of the diamond and hopefully it will lead to a good offensive performance tomorrow.”
Now, after winning their first eight games of the tournament, Team USA will take on Korea in the gold medal game Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. The Americans handled Korea once before, but their 2-0 win against them was the slimmest margin of the any game so far, and will prove to be another challenge in the finale.
However, with Dieter’s eight innings of work Saturday, Stankiewicz and pitching coach Ricky Meinhold should have most--if not all--of their arms available, as the U.S. goes for its fourth straight gold medal.
“We feel good about what we have,” Stankiewicz said. “We have a lot of guys we can pitch tomorrow. We feel good about whoever we start and we obviously feel good about having a strong bullpen behind him ready to go . . . We just saw all these hitters (Friday) and so two days later we'll be seeing them again, so I think we'll have a pretty good understanding of how to attack their hitters.
“Everybody's good. Everybody's ready to roll.”
Eight games in, Team USA has proven they are the team to beat in Thunder Bay. They only need to stay unbeaten for one more.
"This is what we came here to do, to win this game (Sunday),” Dieter said. “To be able to give some rest to the rest of our pitchers and allow everyone to be on deck tomorrow was my goal (Saturday). I achieved that and it is all hands on deck tomorrow.
“Because we are going out to win a gold medal."