Alec Burleson celebrates his walk-off home run in game two of the Japan Series (USA Baseball)

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Team USA Rewind: Q&A With Dan McDonnell

USA Baseball

Louisville coach Dan McDonnell will always look back on his summer leading the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team with great fondness and satisfaction, even though he’ll also remember what almost was.

Team USA achieved two of its three big goals in 2019, emphatically winning its home series against Cuba (four games to one), and taking two out of three in a road series at Chinese Taipei. Its summer campaign concluded last month with a five-game road series against Japan, and the Americans were determined to win a series on Japanese soil for the first time in 40 years. Team USA won two of the first three games in the series, as East Carolina’s Alec Burleson hit a walk-off homer in the ninth in game two and Reid Detmers (Louisville), Cole Wilcox (Georgia) and Andrew Abbott (Virginia) combined on a one-hit shutout in game three. But Japan won the final two games to clinch its 16th straight series win against USA on Japanese soil, a streak that spans 40 years.

“We were all juiced up for the Japan series, that was the highlight of the summer — we wanted to do something that hadn’t been done in a long time,” McDonnell said. “And like other teams, we had a 2-1 lead but lost in game five. To feel the pain of that loss, like I told the kids, you don’t get that in other summer leagues. As much as the highs are great, the losses — I told my wife I felt as bad losing game five in Japan as I did getting eliminated in Omaha. I felt that crushed. Just because we wanted to do something that hadn’t been done in 40 years.”

Team USA finished the summer with an 8-6 record. This year’s group hit better than many editions of Team USA do, finishing with a .283 batting average and outscoring its opponents 68-49. And the pitching staff featured plenty of quality arms, as usual, but minor injuries and fatigue also kept some frontline arms off the roster — notably Georgia’s Emerson Hancock, UCLA’s Holden Powell, and Louisville’s Bobby Miller and Michael Kirian. Another couple of horses on the mound could have made a big difference for a staff that finished with a solid but not spectacular (for wood-bat international competition) 3.06 staff ERA.

We caught up with McDonnell to look back at the summer, assess its triumphs and challenges, and break down some of the players who stood out most for the CNT.

Check out the full interview by clicking below!

 


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