Aug. 9, 2002
MESSINA, Italy – Notre Dame’s Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) picked up his second win of the summer as a member of the U.S. National Baseball Team, after holding the Czech Republic to one run and three hits on Friday in five-plus innings of a 14-1 World Championship quarterfinal matchup at Primo Nebiolo stadium. The game was halted after seven innings, due to the international 10-run rule.
Johnson (2-1) matched his seven walks with seven strikeouts and avoided trouble until the top of the sixth, when he left with one out after allowing a leadoff single and a pair of walks. Cal State Fullerton righthander Wes Littleton then took the mound but allowed the inherited runner to score, giving up an RBI single by the first batter he faced.
Johnson owns a 1.80 summer ERA and .164 opponent batting average (both sixth-best on the team), with 25 strikeouts, 13 walks and 11 hits allowed in 20 innings of work. He is part of an elite 10-pitcher staff that is on the verge of setting the Team USA record for staff ERA. The USA pitchers take a 1.44 staff ERA into the semifinal round, on pace to best the team record of 1.56 set in the summer of 2000.
The rising sophomore righthander opened the game by yielding a one-out walk and two-out single, before rolling up a groundball to kill the threat. After a leadoff walk in the second, he retired six straight batters, eight of the next nine and 10 of the next 12 while his teammates were adding to their lead.
Southern University second baseman Rickie Weeks – who led Division I baseball with a .495 season batting average last spring but was batting just .247 with Team USA prior to Friday’s action – paced the USA’s 15-hit attack by going 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBI (on a leadoff home run and a two-run triple).
The U.S. (22-6 overall, 4-1 in Italy) next will face Japan (4-1) in Saturday’s second semifinal (8:30 p.m. local time, 1:30 p.m. in South Bend) while unbeaten Cuba will take on Taiwan (3-2) in the earlier semifinal. Friday’s other quarterfinals saw Japan defeat Korea (6-1) and Cuba eliminate China (3-0) while Taiwan knocked out the host country Italy (14-3). The gold and bronze-medal games will be played on Sunday.
Houston righthander Brad Sullivan (0.83 ERA, 6-0) will take the mound versus Japan, after defeating the Japanese Collegiate All-Star team twice earlier this summer in games played in the United States.
Weeks – batting in the sixth spot – led off the second with a single to left (before scoring the third U.S. run), followed by a leadoff single to center in the third (run scored), a two-run triple to the left-center gap in the fourth and a leadoff home run over the leftfield fence in the sixth.
Tulane first baseman Michael Aubrey extended his hitting streak to six games with a first-inning triple to center field, plating Georgia Tech shortstop Eric Patterson. South Carolina catcher Landon Powell then reached on a two-out infield single, scoring Aubrey for the 2-0 lead.
The three-run bottom of the second included four straight singles, two errors and a walk. Louisville DH Mark Jurich added a sacrifice fly before LSU third baseman Aaron Hill’s two-run double knocked starter Leos Kubat from the game. Three more USA runs followed in the fourth, versus reliever Radek Prochazha.
Jurich’s 3-for-3 game included a pair of RBI. The Czech’s made seven errors that led to a pair of unearned runs.