Valley News -

By JP Raineri
Sports Editor 

Local athletes compete for USA Baseball

 

Last updated 9/14/2018 at 1:55am

Courtesy

Kelsie Whitmore, 20, of Temecula was selected to play for Team USA for the second time in the past four years.

During the same time of year where youth baseball players from all over the world hit the field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in search of the elusive Little League World Championship title, there was an even bigger stage being set. This past summer, three local players stepped foot on that stage for Team USA, which was highlighted by another international aspect of the game being played by a different batch of players that represent their countries.

Founded in 1978, USA Baseball, the governing body for amateur baseball in the United States and a member of the U.S Olympic Committee, organizes the United States national baseball teams every year, and a number of those teams competed over the past summer. Three of those teams took notice of many players from the area, including Kelsie Whitmore, Rheego McIntosh and Brady Strohm, all three are Temecula natives.

Whitmore, 20, was among the top women chosen to represent the United States for the second time in her young career. She not only plays softball at California State University Fullerton, but she also played professionally for the Sonoma Stompers and was selected this year along with 19 other women. She played previously in the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup in 2015 where Team USA took second place. Whitmore was just 16 years old when she competed internationally for the first time for the United States and rejoined past USA teammates Jade Gortarez and Stacy Piagno, who were Sonoma Stompers teammates.

This year's Women's National Team competed in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Women's Baseball World Cup in Viera, Florida, Aug. 22-31, which marked the first time the event was held in the United States. Whitmore and her squad ended their run with a heartbreaking 8-5 loss to Canada in the bronze medal game Friday, Aug. 31, at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Florida. Despite getting out to an early lead and forcing extra innings with a late rally, the U.S. couldn't hang on as Canada's bats caught fire in the 10th inning. Team USA finished the World Cup 6-3 with a 1.98 team ERA and a collective .288 average.

The two other local standouts that competed at the international level for Team USA, Rheego McIntosh, 15, from Chaparral High School and Brady Strohm, 12, who attends middle school in Temecula, returned home as gold medal champions.

For McIntosh, he and his teammates claimed Team USA's first 15U World Cup Championship Sunday, Aug. 19, downing host country Panama 7-1 in front of a sold-out crowd in the final game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation's U15 Baseball World Cup.

"I was very honored and humbled to be selected to Team USA," McIntosh said. "It was exciting to have the opportunity to represent the United States at such a big event. I had so much fun playing with and competing against the best 15-year-olds in the world. It really opened my eyes to how much talent is out there. This was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life."

McIntosh was selected after catching the eyes of the Team USA staff at the Arizona USA Baseball Team Championships earlier this year, and his travel team, the Menace Baseball Club, along with the coaches, were excited when they heard McIntosh had been selected.

"This kid works really hard on and off the field and to see all the hard work pay off was rewarding for us as coaches," members of the MBC staff said.

For Strohm, his Team USA crew scored seven runs over the first three innings of the championship game Sunday, Sept. 2, which led to a 10-2 victory over Mexico to claim gold and win the 2018 COPABE U12 Pan American Championships with a perfect 9-0 record. It marks the first time the USA has won the tournament after finishing runner-up in 2014 and 2016.

"I can't say enough about our guys," USA 12U National Team head coach Todd Fine said in an online interview. "From start to finish, we continued to build every day. We ran the table and went undefeated. These kids have given everything we have asked of them. It is a special group, and they have a medal to show for it."

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Rheego McIntosh, a sophomore baseball player from Chaparral High School, won gold with the U15 team that represented the United States at the World Cup this past summer.

The win moved Team USA to 5-2 all-time against Mexico, and they are 1-1 against them in U12 Pan American championship games. The 10-2 win over Mexico was their smallest margin of victory. Their success in the tournament qualified them for the 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation's U12 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. The USA Baseball 12U National Team, winning their first gold at the U12 Pan American Championships, are a three-time defending world champion at the WBSC U12 Baseball World Cup.

The various teams, composed of middle and high school players as well as college and professional baseball players, have been competing nationally and internationally for years with the objective of competing in the Olympics. The game was last played on that world stage in 2008 but was voted out before 2012, under the claim that the American-born sport was not as competitive around the world, but a new resurrection is expected to come in 2020.

USA Baseball will start the processes again soon as they look to build more teams for next year. To keep up with everything going on with USA Baseball or to revisit the games that led up to the final game for each of the Team USA players, visit www.USABaseball.com.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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