SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Cal Poly junior-to-be Mark Mathias reached base three times Friday, but Team USA was held to just one hit and fell 1-0 to Japan in the opening game of the 27th edition of Honkbal Week at Pim Mulier Stadium.
Yuki Yoshida fired 7.1 hitless frames, striking out seven, before yielding a one-out single to Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt) in the top of the eighth. That would be Team USA's only hit of the evening as Yasuaki Yamasaki closed out the final 1.1 frames to earn the save.
USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team, which won a three-game International Friendship Series against Japan, two games to one, earlier in the week, fell to 11-3-2 with Friday's loss.
Team USA starter James Kaprielian (UCLA) tossed five shutout frames, allowing just two hits while striking out three. Jake Lemoine (Houston) suffered the loss but gave up only two hits and one run in his three innings of work before Tyler Jay (Illinois) struck out two in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Hitting fourth and playing third base, Mathias was hit by a pitch and walked twice for Team USA, which continues the double round-robin portion of the tournament on Saturday with a prime-time showdown against the host Netherlands. Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer will start on the mound for Team USA.
Despite not getting its first hit until the eighth inning, Team USA was able to mount a two-out threat in the bottom of the fourth. After two quick outs, the next three batters, including Mathias, each drew walks only to see a groundout to short leave them all stranded.
Swanson singled with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but was left stranded at second, as was Mathias in the ninth after he led off the frame with a walk.
Mathias has hit safely in 13 of Team USA's 16 games this summer and has reached base in all 16 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-54 (.370) in 16 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 16 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.