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July 12, 2012Bobby Wahl has pitched at Alex Box Stadium, Dudy Noble Field and other hostile environments, but no visiting venue could compare to what he encountered on July 5.
With "USA" across his chest, Wahl was charged with securing the save that would give Team USA its first win on Cuban soil since 1993.
In front of an estimated 20,000 fans in Havana, the Ole Miss rising junior struck out back-to-back hitters with the tying run at third in the eighth inning and worked a scoreless ninth for the 4-3 victory.
Pitching for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, Wahl and his fellow college stars recently completed a five-game series against Cuba with a 2-3 record, the first such event between the countries in 16 years. Wahl got the save in both wins.
"It's different than anything I've experienced," Wahl said. "There's 20,000 people, and they have air horns and vuvuzelas. It's just a different level. Your heart is racing and adrenaline is flowing. It's a great experience.
"It's impossible to describe listening to the national anthem with a Team USA jersey on while in another country. It was Cuba's best team. I looked across the line, and they had 35-year-olds over there."
On Wednesday, Team USA traveled to The Netherlands for the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week competition that will begin on Saturday. Opponents in the event are Japan, Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands and Chinese-Taipei.
Team USA opened the summer with four wins over collegiate summer teams in North Carolina and then played four games against the 18U USA National Team, though each team pitched against itself.
Wahl has made four appearances with nine strikeouts and three walks while allowing no runs on one hit.
"I'm just trying to learn from teammates and the competition," Wahl said. "You're playing with and against some of the best players in the world. It's an experience to never forget and also to make sure you take things with you to use. I've got a great seat for everything because I don't have to move until the late innings."
The Collegiate National Team has a good bit of Southeastern Conference flavor. Joining Wahl from the SEC are Kyle Farmer (Georgia), Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Austin Cousino (Kentucky), Jonathan Crawford (Florida) and Ryne Stanek (Arkansas).
"Those are all great guys. I've really gotten close to everybody. Farmer, Cousino, Stanek are great guys, and even though people won't want to hear it, Frazier is a super dude, as well," Wahl said, while laughing.
The summer schedule will be done in 10 days, and then Wahl will return to Springfield, Va., before heading back to Ole Miss. There hasn't been much of a break since February, so recovery will be key prior to fall practice.
"There will be a lot of arm resting," Wahl said. "I'm ready to see my family and then excited to get back to Oxford. We've got a great year coming up."
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