Gowdy is a world champion with USA U18s

Santa Barbara High's Kevin Gowdy holds up flag during post-game celebration after Team USA defeated host Japan in the WBSC U18 World Cup final.

Santa Barbara High’s Kevin Gowdy holds up flag during post-game celebration after Team USA defeated host Japan in the WBSC U18 World Cup final.

Kevin Gowdy is coming home as a world champion.

The Santa Barbara High senior was a member of the USA Baseball 18-Under National Team that defeated Japan, 2-1, on Sunday in the championship game of the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in front of 15,000 fans at historic Koshien Stadiun in Osaka.

It’s the third straight world championship for the USA. The title win avenged a defeat against Japan during tournament pool play.

“I can’t imagine a better feeling than this,” Team USA manager Glenn Cecchini told USA Baseball. “I feel like I’m floating. I’m just so grateful to be part of this. It was a struggle and it was a grind but nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Just to know that we did it and to see the joy in the players’ faces means so much. These are memories that will last a lifetime.

“This is just complete joy and the happiest feeling to realize that we just won the gold medal for the United States of America.”

Gowdy, a 6-4 right-hander who has committed to UCLA, earned a pitching win against Mexico and turned in a huge relief appearance in a comeback victory over Cuba that put Team USA into the gold-medal game.

In the final, Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach, Calif.) started on the mound and retired the first 11 batters he faced en route to giving Team USA 6.1 fantastic innings. He allowed just one run while scattering six hits and striking out nine to earn the gold-medal game victory. In two starts, he yielded just two earned runs while striking out 17. He finished with a 2-0 record and a miniscule 1.26 ERA and was named the tournament MVP.

Braxton Garrett (Florence, Ala.) and Reggie Lawson (Adelanto, Calif.) closed out the remainder of the contest against Japan, combining to allow just one baserunner over the final 2.2 innings.

The USA scored two runs in the third inning. Blake Rutherford (Simi Valley) banged a leadoff single up the middle, moved up to second on a sac bunt and scored on an error by Japan. That miscue allowed Mickey Moniak (Encinitas, Calif.) to move up to second from which he raced home when Michael Amditis (Boca Raton, Fla.) dropped a double down the right-field line.

Japan finally broke through with its only run of the game in the sixth when it got a two-strike, two-out RBI single. Just prior to that the U.S. narrowly avoided another run when catcher Amditis was able to quickly corral a ball that had bounced a few feet away and fired to Pratto covering the plate who was able to tag out a Japanese baserunner trying to race home from third.