Luis Mejia (1) of the Blue Team looks to the umpire for the call after making the out at second base on Red Team baserunner Anthony Del Angel (44) at the Hart Sports Complex in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita hosts USA Baseball 12U National Team ahead of Baseball World Cup

The USA Baseball 12U National Team has spent the last week in Santa Clarita, preparing for the upcoming World Baseball Softball Confederation U-12 Baseball World Cup that starts next Friday in Tainan, Taiwan.

Over 100 players from across the country participated in the 12U National Open from July 13-15 at the William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball Complex, and 36 players were chosen to partake in the Team Trials.

Those 36 players were split into two teams, 12U Red and 12U Blue, and played three games against each other over the last three days.

The Red team won the first two games, 9-5 on Tuesday and 6-3 on Wednesday, but the Blue team avoided the sweep by winning 6-3 on Thursday to conclude the Team Trials. 

“We’re going to have a great day today,” 12U National Team manager Todd Fine said before the game. “It’s amazing to me how much we’ve grown in the past two days.”

Gustavo Melendez Leon picks up a ground ball at shortstop for the Red Team in the fourth inning at the William S. Hart Baseball Complex on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

After a scoreless first inning, the Blue team put up four runs in the top of the second inning to take an early 4-0 lead.

Bryce Nixon from Huffman, Texas got the first RBI for Blue, scoring teammate Josiah Hartshorn from Anaheim. 

Eli Willits from Fort Cobb, Oklahoma and Isaac Rojas from Riverside also logged RBIs in the inning.

Red cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning, as Hamilton Friedberg from Redondo Beach scored Lucas Tinajero from Corpus Christi, Texas with an RBI double. Friedberg then scored a run on an error from Blue.

The pitchers then took over the game, as each team went scoreless for the next three innings.

Blue added two more runs in the top of the sixth inning with RBI singles from Logan Shields of Manvel, Texas and Jayden Stroman of Medford, New York. 

Red was able to score one more run in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t complete the comeback, giving Blue its first win and only win of the three-game series.

Jayden Stroman pitches for the Red Team in the fourth inning at the William S. Hart Baseball Complex on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

After the game, Fine and his coaching staff gathered the players from both teams in center field and expressed his gratitude for all the hard work they’ve put in.

“You guys have improved so much over the last two days. I’m so proud of you each and every one of you guys,” Fine said to the players. “I can’t thank you enough, I’ve had a wonderful time with all of you.”

The coaching staff will make final roster decisions Thursday night, cutting the squad in half to complete the 18-person team. 

The 12U National Team will play two exhibition games on Friday and Saturday in Santa Clarita before traveling to Taiwan for the opening round of the WBSC U-12 Baseball World Cup.

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