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Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Luebke enjoyed time with Team USA

By Gary R. Rasberry
Cory Luebke has had another summer to write home about.
After a dominating performance in his third season of professional baseball, Luebke, the Marion Local graduate and San Diego Padres prospect, got a chance to represent his country at the IBAF Baseball World Cup.
In Europe, most of the games taking place in Italy with other games in Germany and The Netherlands, Luebke had three outstanding performances on the mound, including the start in the gold medal game as Team USA beat perennial world power Cuba 10-5 on Sunday in Nettuno, Italy.
"It's something else. It's hard to describe," said Luebke about being picked for the team. "It's a lot of fun. I met a lot of new guys. They put a heckuva team together for us and I got to tour a lot of Europe - it was my first time in Europe - that was pretty neat. We had an awesome run of games to take down Cuba."
Luebke, who came back to the states on Monday evening, was happy to get the call from USA Baseball to play with some of the top players from Triple-A and Double-A teams of the majors.
"It was pretty neat. They put together a balanced group of players," said Luebke, who started the minor league season in Class-A Advanced Lake Elsinore and was pitching for Double-A San Antonio before going to the National Team. "There were about eight of us from Double-A that all knew each other. ... They put together a good group of Triple-A guys, some that have been around a bit and had some big league time. (That) helped some of us younger guys."
Team USA lost its opening game of the tournament, then rattled off 14 wins in a row to capture the biannual (every two years) tournament for the second straight time.
Luebke made his first start against Canada in pool play and dominant would be too subtle a word to describe his performance. Luebke took a no-hitter into the eighth and finished with a one-hitter over 72/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and a walk in posting an 8-0 win over the Canadians.
"A lot of those guys on the (Canadian) team were guys I faced this year (in the minors)," said Luebke via telephone. "We had four exhibition games with Canada in North Carolina before coming over. I had a good idea what to expect. ... To tell you the truth, out of the three games I pitched, that was the game where I thought my stuff was the worst."
A week later, it was Australia. Luebke pitched six innings of five-hit, one earned run baseball, getting a no-decision as the Americans won on a walk-off homer in the night by Trevor Plouffe to get a 4-3 win.
Then came Sunday's game against Cuba. Luebke gave up two runs in 41/3 innings, but struck out seven and walked none before turning the ball over to Brad Lincoln, who added another 41/3 innings as the Americans scored six times in the seventh to rally from a 4-4 tie.
"We talked about it before the game," said Luebke about the pitching in the final. "With us beating Canada, Australia and Chinese Tapei in our pool, we got a point for beating each of them that carried to the other pool. The first two games, we locked up the spot in the gold medal game. ... We had three of our starters ready for the championship game. He (manager Eddie Rodriguez) said it might be three, three, three (innings). It was one of the games where you go out there and take it an inning at a time."
In 18 innings of tournament ball, Luebke went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA. His 22 strikeouts led the team. Luebke allowed just 12 hits and two walks in the tournament, posting a WHIP of 0.78.
With his work for Team USA done, and the minor league season complete, Luebke will take the fall off and work on finishing his degree at Ohio State.
"The way it worked out with the Padres, they let me know that my innings were going to finish out the way they wanted. They wanted me around 150-160 innings," said Luebke. "They let me know I was going to have the fall off. They wanted me to shut it down, have some rest. I have a few more quarters to get my degree, so I have to start chipping away at that."
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