July 16, 2002
STRONGSVILLE, Ohio- Notre Dame’s Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) had another solid outing but the USA Baseball National Team saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end Monday night, in a 6-5 game versus the Great Lakes League All-Stars at Mills Field, home of the Northern Ohio Baseball Club.
(Note: check back to und.com for an exclusive Q&A with Johnson, as he reflects on his whirlwind past few weeks.)
Johnson (1-1) – with his parents Gary and Charlotte, among other ND faithful, in attendance – faced 16 batters over the first four innings, allowing a first-inning run while rolling up seven strikeouts, with two hits and two walks allowed. Team USA then got its bullpen some work in anticipation of three off-days for travel overseas, with the relievers giving up five runs over the final three innings – before the USA nearly rallied for six runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Johnson’s hard-luck loss included a leadoff walk by Brian Bixler and Bowling Green’s Dave Barkholz’ hit-and-run single, moving the runner to third. Bryan Sanchez then went down swinging but Bixler scored on a balk – with Johnson then retiring 11 of the next 13 batters he faced. His stats in three outings with Team USA (two starts) now include a 2.13 ERA (6th-best on a staff that owns a 1.70 team ERA), 15 strikeouts, 5 walks and 7 hits allowed in 12.2 innings (plus a .167 opponent batting avg., good for 5th-best on the staff, 2 wild pitches and a balk).
Parents of Notre Dame’s three 2002 graduates from northern Ohio were on hand for Monday’s game: Chip and Deborah Bok (their son Matt signed as a free agent with the L.A. Dodgers organization), Phil and Barbara O’Toole (who just had seen their son Paul with the Lansing Lugnuts) and Andrew Bushey’s mom Marty (he has begun playing in the Rockies organization). Johnson’s classmate, lefthander Scott Bickford, also was at the game (he plays in the GLL with the Delaware, Ohio, Cows) as was Akron native and former ND baseball student manager Katie Furman (she was an intern with the Northern Ohio Baseball Club in the summer of 2000).
Long Beach state lefthander Abe Alvarez pitched a scoreless 5th, followed by Cal State Fullerton righthanders Wes Littleton and Chad Cordero (who allowed an unearned run in the 7th). Texas RHP Huston Street then gave up his first run of the summer in the 8th while Southwest Missouri closer Bob Zimmerman – who has touched 98 mph this summer – suffered his worst outing, allowing three runs (also his first of the summer) on three hits and a hit batter in the top of the 9th.
The All-Stars used a different pitcher in each inning and that strategy held Team USA to just three hits in the first eight frames – before a four-hit, five-run explosion in the bottom of the 9th. Tulane 1B Michael Aubrey – still batting a team-best .450 despite an 0-for-3 game – led off the rally with a walk versus Tim Day. A fielding error by Oklahoma State 3B Mitch Mitchell then allowed Stanford RF Carlos Quentin to reach, followed by California 3B Conor Jackson’s walk and an RBI single up the middle from South Carolina C Landon Powell. Cal State Fullerton DH Shane Costa added an RBI single to center, as did Southern LF Rickie Weeks (to left) – bringing Ohio State righthander Matt Davis out of the bullpen.
Georgia Tech 2B Eric Patterson forged a 6-4 game with his single to right and Davis then hit Louisiana State SS Aaron Hill with a bases-loaded pitch, moving the tying run to third (still with no outs). But Stanford CF Sam Fuld went down swinging and Aubrey then sent a sinking linedrive up the middle. Pepperdine SS Kevin Estrada appeared to trap the ball but the play was ruled a catch and Weeks was doubled off third base for the stunning end.
Weeks (2-for-4) was the only USA player to collect multiple hits in the game.
The USA completed its 17-game Red, White and Blue tour with a 14-3 record, including two losses to Japan’s Collegiate All-Star team. Stanford catcher Ryan Garko has been added to the roster for the overseas trip, with Georgia’s Clint Sammons (.100, 2 RBI) sidelined due to an arm fracture. Garko had been a Cape Cod League teammate of ND pitcher John Axford, with the Hyannis Mets.
OVERSEAS-BOUND: The USA will open its gold medal defense (6-0 in 2000) of the Haarlem Baseball Week (Haarlem, The Netherlands; website: www.haarlembaseball.nl) on Friday, July 19 at 7:00 p.m. local time (noon in South Bend) against Taiwan … Wake Forest RHP Kyle Sleeth (1.21, 4-0) is scheduled to take the mound for Team USA … the USA will play five preliminary games (every other day), with the championship game slated for July 28 … the rest of the USA rotation will be determined as the tournament progresses … the USA also will play afternoon games (1:00) vs. South Africa (July 21) and Japan (July 23), followed by 7:00 night games vs. Cuba (July 25) and the host country (July 27) … Mark Prior led the USA on the mound in the 2000 title game, a 9-5 win over Cuba … the USA then will move down the coast to Italy and will play in the opening-night feature game of the first-ever FISU Collegiate World Baseball Championships (www.cusmessina.it) in Messina, Italy (Aug. 2), facing the host country in an 8:30 game following the opening ceremonies … the USA and Cuba were placed in different pools but could meet in the medal round (Aug. 9-11) … real-time stats of all USA games can be tracked at www.usabaseball.com …
17-GAME STATS UPDATE: The team’s aces – Houston’s Brad Sullivan (1.19, 4-0, 30. IP, 15 H, 7 BB, 30 Ks, .149 opp. avg.) and Sleeth (1.21, 4-0, 29.2 IP, 20 H, 4 BB, 34 Ks, .187) lead the way on a staff with a 1.70 ERA and .195 opp. batting avg. (181 Ks, 37 BB) … Cordero has yet to allow a run in 10.1 IP (5 H, 3 BB, 19 Ks, .132) … other ERA leaders include Street (1.29, 2 SV, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 11 Ks, .148), Rice’s Phil Humber (2.12, 2-1, 17 IP, 12 H, 10 BB, 20 Ks, .214) and Johnson … Georgia Tech LHP Kyle Bakker joins Sullivan, Sleeth, Humber and Johnson among the five starters (2.16, 2-0, 16.2 IP, 17 H, 2 BB, 21 Ks, .266) … rounding out the staff are Littleton (2.25, 1-0, 12 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 11 Ks, .186), Alvarez (2.61, 10.1 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 10 Ks, .359) and Zimmerman (3.52, 2 SV, 7,2 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 Ks, .148) … the USA is hitting just .287 with 12 home runs, 4 triples, 31 doubles, 16 stolen bases, 57 walks and 110 Ks … Aubrey is hitting 27-for-60 (.450, 16 RBI, 3 HR) … Quentin is the only other USA player over .333 (.362, 16 RBI, 3 HR, 4 2B) … other top hitters include Jackson (.333, 4 RBI, HR, 10 R, 7 2B, 10 BB), Powell (.314, 12 RBI, 2 HR, 2 3B) and Patterson (.302, 7 RBI, 8 R, 8 SB, 6 BB) … three others are hitting above .250: Hill (.283, 10 RBI, 13 R, 5 2B), Costa (.278, 12 RBI, HR, 11 R, 4 2B) and Weeks (.259, 8 RBI, 8 R, HR, 2 3B, 2 SB) … others include Louisville OF Mark Jurich (.250, 3 RBI, 7 R, HR), Arizona State SS Dustin Pedroia (.227, 3 RBI, 5 R) and Fuld (.143, 8 RBI, 6 R) … the USA owns a sparkling .971 fielding pct., with just 19 errors in 17 games.
TEAM USA SWEEPS NORTHERN OHIO (July 13-15; Strongsville, Ohio/Mills Field; 3-2, 9-1, 4-2) – Sleeth posted the first win (6.2 IP, 2 R, 5 H/2 HR, 7 Ks) … Street recorded the final two outs for the save … Patterson doubled and scored on Hill’s sac. fly in the 3rd … Pedroia (3 H) singled home Jurich in the 7th, with Quentin’s single yielding a 3-1 lead … Alvarez (1.2 IP) set up Street’s save … Humber notched the second win (7.1 IP, R, 4 H, 9 Ks) … Powell’s 3-run produced a 4-1 lead in the 6th … Littleton and Zimmerman closed out the win …singles from Fuld and Quentin (who later had a 2-run blast) yielded a 1st-inning lead … Aubrey’s 4-for-5 game pushed his batting avg. to .472 … Sullivan closed the sweep (6 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 5 Ks), with relief from Alvarez, Cordero and Street … Costa singled home Hill in the 1st … Weeks added a solo shot to right-center in the 3rd, for a 4-0 lead.