Blythe Hastings ’23
Everything went right for Team USA in a pivotal eighth inning against Venezuela, but no swing was more important than the one that belonged to the nine-hole hitter. Trailing Venezuela by two runs, USA loaded the bases with nobody out against left-hander José Quijada. Tim Anderson drew a walk, Pete Alonso hit a pinch-hit single, and J.T. Realmuto was hit by a pitch. Venezuela manager Omar Lopez replaced Quijada with right-hander Silvino Bracho, who was walking into a nightmare situation. Not only would Bracho attempt to get his first hitter out but looming right behind him was the top of the USA order, featuring none other than Mookie Betts and Mike Trout.
But first up was Trea Turner, the uber talented nine-hole hitter who emphasizes just how deep USA’s lineup is. Turner was quickly down 0-2 against Bracho, but he hardly let that phase him. On the third pitch he saw, Turner launched a grand slam to left field and erased the deficit to put the team up, 9-7, in the eighth inning. Later, Turner said the grand slam was his highest individual achievement in baseball—and that is coming from a guy who has recorded 44 hits in 27 career playoff games. “Probably the loudest game I’ve ever played in,” Turner said, “Today was electric and just as good as those World Series games.” USA’s dugout erupted as players leaped over the dugout railing and practically flew to the plate to receive Turner. As his teammates waited in a half-circle at home plate, Turner saluted them before jumping up and down and celebrating with his squad. USA hitting coach Ken Griffey Jr. embraced Turner in a hug as the crowd roared behind them. It all added up to the most emotion we have seen from USA so far in the tournament.
Before the game, USA manager Mark DeRosa held a team meeting about the “hostile environment” they were walking into and instructed his players to match Venezuela’s passion. “When Trea clipped that ball, honestly, I saw about 35 guys, including the coaches, kind of black out and lose their minds for a minute,” said DeRosa. USA never looked back after Turner’s majestic home run, knocking Venezuela out of the World Baseball Classic with a 9-7 win on Saturday night at LoanDepot Park.