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July 10, 2014

Single, Sacrifice Fly by Mathias Lift Team USA to 7-0 Victory Over Japan

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Cal Poly junior-to-be Mark Mathias singled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly as Team USA blanked Japan 7-0 Tuesday night at Buck Hardee Field in Wilmington, N.C., clinching the three-game International Friendship Series, two games to one.

Four pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout and the offense plated six runs in the seventh inning to break open a 1-0 contest as USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team improved to 11-2-2 for the summer heading into the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands from July 11-20.

Team USA previously beat Japan, 10-0, on Sunday before a 7-5 loss evened the series on Monday.

A pair of Cal State Fullerton teammates – Justin Garza and Thomas Eshelman – led the way on the mound with Garza striking out four in five scoreless innings and Eshelman adding two more shutout stanzas. Tyler Jay (Illinois) and Ryan Burr (Arizona State) pitched the final two innings to close out the contest.

Tate Matheny (Missouri State) paced the U.S. offense with a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance. He drove in the game's first and last runs with RBI singles in the fourth and seventh innings. Bryan Reynolds (Vanderbilt) added a pair of RBIs in the contest, putting the game out of reach with a two-run double in the seventh.

Mathias batted cleanup and played first base for all three games of the series. He hit a home run, doubled and knocked in three runs in Sunday's game and knocked in two runs with a sacrifice fly and groundout in Monday's contest.

On Tuesday, Mathias singled with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning and eventually came around to score the first run of the game. His sacrifice fly to right field in the seventh scored the third of six Team USA runs in the frame.

Mathias has hit safely in 13 of Team USA's 15 games this summer and has reached base in all 15 contests.

Mathias finished the Japan series 3-for-10 with six RBI and went 5-for-17 in the five-game series against Chinese Taipei, which Team USA won with a 3-0-2 record. Mathias is 20-for-53 (.377) in 15 games for Team USA this summer with seven doubles, one home run, nine RBI, 13 runs scored and six stolen bases. He is one of just two Team USA players to start all 15 games.

Prior to the series against Chinese Taipei, Mathias went 12-for-26 (.462) at the plate during Team USA's seven-game Red, White and Blue training camp series with four doubles, one RBI, nine runs scored and four stolen bases in four attempts. He had a trio of multi-hit games, including two three-hit contests, and had at least one hit in each of the seven games.

Mathias, the second Mustang and fourth in the last six seasons invited to compete for a spot on Team USA – southpaw Matt Imhof pitched for the Collegiate National Team last summer -- played second base at Cal Poly this season, helping the Mustangs to their first Big West title and third NCAA regional berth.

Last month, Mathias (6-0, 185, Fremont, Calif./Irvington HS) earned third-team All-American honors as well as first-team All-West Region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association. He also landed on the Baseball America second team and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's third team.

Named Big West Conference Field Player of the Year in late May, Mathias hit a Big West-leading .386 with 14 doubles, one triple and a pair of home runs. He knocked in 39 runs, led the Mustangs in hits with 81 as well as with 12 steals in 16 attempts and earned All-San Luis Obispo Regional honors by going 7-for-14 with three RBIs in four games.

Mathias, who had 17- and 14-game hitting streaks during the season, hit safely in 44 of his last 48 games and led the team with 24 multiple-hit contests. He went 77-for-185 (.416) during his last 48 games, struck out just 18 times in 250 plate appearances for the season and earned the team's Monty Waltz Big Stick Award.

A year ago, Imhof struck out 18 batters in 17 innings during his six mound stints with Team USA. Imhof allowed 10 hits and five walks, limiting opposing batters to a .175 average. He started one game and was a relief pitcher in five others.

Second baseman Matt Jensen was invited in both 2009 and 2010. An injury forced him to miss the tryouts in 2009 and he was released from the 2010 squad following the final day of training camp though he hit a grand slam in the final game of a six-game intrasquad series. Shortstop Ozzie Smith made the roster of the 1976 Team USA while pitcher Mike Zirelli (1997), infielder Jon Macalutas (1995) and catcher John Orton (1986) did not make the squad.

The 2014 Collegiate National Team is coached by Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn. The team's assistant coaches include Rob Childress (head coach at Texas A&M), Ray Birmingham (head coach at New Mexico) and Steve Rodriguez (head coach at Pepperdine).

Following its trip to the Netherlands for Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week, Team USA will head to Cuba for a five-game friendship series July 23-27.