UTSUNOMIYA, Japan — Taylor Sparks, making his first start of the series against the Japan National Team, drove in three runs on three hits to lead the Collegiate National Team to an 8-2 win Wednesday.
Sparks, who went three for five and scored three runs, kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the first with a two-out, bases-loaded single to put Team USA ahead, 2-0. He would eventually cross the plate as an unearned run to cap a four-run first.
The UCI standout figured in the scoring again in the third after posting his second hit of the night and scoring on a bloop single by Grayson Greiner (South Carolina) for a five-run advantage.
Sparks capitalized on a two-on, no-out situation in the fifth, lining a single to right to drive in Matt Chapman (Cal State Fullerton). Sparks would round the bases and score the seventh run of the game on an error by Japan.
Carlos Rodon (NC State) twirled a gem for the Collegiate National Team. He limited Japan to just two hits, walked three and struck out four in five innings of work.
"The difference in today's game versus the other games has been timely hitting and which team makes the mistakes on defense," said manager Jim Schlossnagle (TCU). "We've certainly had our share of those issues going into today. Taylor obviously did a great job of getting the big hit in the first inning and Carlos was outstanding."
Japan's offense broke through in the sixth inning, pushing across two runs on four hits to make it an 8-2 contest.
With Team USA's victory, the USA-Japan Collegiate International Friendly Series is knotted at two games apiece. The decisive fifth game is set for Thursday at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. Florida State's Luke Weaver will make the start for Team USA. Game time is set for 2 a.m. PT, 6 p.m. (JST).
Sparks' previous appearance for the team was on Monday. Sparks came off the bench as a first baseman and was one for one with a run batted in. He is currently hitting .424 in 12 games. He is fourth on the team with 14 hits and eight RBIs to go along with four steals.
— From staff reports