USA Baseball completed its roster for the 18U National Team, and Wildomar’s Vaughn Neckar made the cut. The team is currently competing in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier in La Paz and Los Cabos, Mexico, which will take place through Sunday, Nov. 13.
If the U.S. earns a top-four finish at the qualifier, it will secure a spot in next summer’s XXXI WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Tainan, Taiwan, where it would aim to defend its title after winning gold at the XXX WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in September.
“Putting together this roster was an exciting and interesting process,” 2022 18U National Team Manager Denny Hocking said. “Our team will be very skilled across the board and is a combination of very talented players from multiple age groups. This roster puts us in a great position to achieve our goal of bringing a gold medal home from Mexico and giving us a chance to defend our title next summer.”
Hocking returns to his managerial role after leading the U.S. to its ninth world championship at the XXX WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida, in September. Hocking has spent time as an analyst and reporter for MLB.com and Fox Sports Radio in addition to serving as a coach and manager throughout the minor leagues. He has been a minor league manager for four different teams, most recently the Single-A Modesto Nuts, and currently works as an analyst on Bally Sports West.
Neckar, an LSU commit, who plays for Vista Murrieta during the spring, joins up with many of his former Team USA teammates who all competed in past USA Baseball development programs. The roster also includes four players who participated in the 2022 Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League. Casey Borba (Santa Ana), Roman Martin (Whittier), Campbell Smithwick (Conway, S.C.) and Nazzan Zanetello (Florissant, Mo.) all competed at the event, which is an invitation-based development and assessment opportunity for high school players eligible for the following year’s MLB Draft.
The 18U National Team headed to Glendale, Arizona, for Training Camp from Oct. 28-Nov. 1 before traveling to La Paz and Los Cabos, Mexico, for the U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. As a pitcher, Neckar helped Team USA to an 8-3 exhibition victory over Hamilton High School at Bell Bank Park in Mesa, Arizona. As closers in that game, Neckar and Stunner Gonzales (Carlsbad) combined for seven strikeouts in the final four innings to secure the win. Neckar was the only pitcher to not permit a hit for the stars and stripes, as he allowed just one baserunner to reach via walk in two scoreless innings. The U.S. offense was led by Casey Borba (Santa Ana), who was 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBIs in the win. Team USA concluded its exhibition play against GateWay Community College on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
In their second game of pool play, Team USA scored six runs in the first inning en route to a 15-2 win over Puerto Rico in World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup Americas Qualifier. Borba drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a 13-run lead before Neckar came out of the bullpen in the fifth to lock down the final three outs for Team USA and secure the 15-2 run-rule victory. The win moved the U.S. to 2-0 in the tournament’s opening round.
Team USA had one final game in pool play Tuesday, Nov. 8, versus Canada. Going into that game Team USA was 3-0, after beating Venezuela 9-4 and was in great contention to secure the top seed. Results from that game were not available prior to this article going to print. From Nov. 9 to Nov. 12, the Super Rounds will take place for seeded teams, setting up the Medal Round, which will take place on Sunday, Nov. 13. Follow the action online at www.usabaseball.com/team-usa/18u/schedule.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.