July 4, 2002

TRENTON, N.J. – Notre Dame righthander Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) made his debut with the USA National Team in Wednesday night’s game versus the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars in Lakewood, N.J., at FirstEnergy Park. Johnson was the third of four relievers in the 7-2 loss to Japan, logging one and two-third innings while allowing one run on one hit, two walks and a wild pitch.

Team USA then rebounded – fittingly on Independence Day – to win the decisive fifth game of the 31st annual USA vs. Japan All-Star Series, in a 2-1 thriller at Trenton’s Waterfront Stadium.

University of Houston righthander Brad Sullivan – who joined former Irish centerfielder Steve Stanley as two of four Division I players who were consensus first team All-Americans in 2002 – tossed a one-hitter to pick up the emotional win, in a showdown with Japan’s lefthanded ace Tsiyoshi Wada (who went the distance in a six-hit effort that beat the USA, 4-3 in 11 innings, on June 29).

The Americans now hold a 19-12 edge in the history of the Japan series, with the USA never losing the series on home soil. The tightly-contested 2002 series saw the USA total 15 runs in the five games while Japan had 13, with each team posting a one-run win while the Americans added a 2-0 victory in the third game of the series.

Johnson entered the current 17-game “Red, White and Blue Tour” as a candidate for the fourth starter position, a role filled initially by Rice righthander Phil Humber in Wednesday’s loss. Humber – who started versus Notre Dame in the College World Series – was touched for three runs on four hits and six walks over four innings, with four strikeouts.

Johnson’s next outing could come during the team’s six-game swing into the upper northeast, with that July 5-11 stretch including games in the following cities: Torrington, Conn. (vs. the Torrington Twisters, at Fuessenich Park), Lowell, Mass. (vs. the Mill City All-Americans, LeLacheur Field), Sanford, Maine (vs. the Sanford Mariners, Goodall Park), Concord, N.H. (vs. the Concord Quarry Dogs, Memorial Field), Keene, N.H. (vs. the Keene Swamp Bats, Alumni Field) and Newport, R.I. (vs. the Newport Gulls, Cardines Field).

Johnson and Team USA then will make a four-game appearance in the Midwest, with his family planning to be in attendance for those July 12-15 games at Mills Field . The USA will play three games vs. the Northern Ohio Baseball Club, followed by a game vs. the Great Lakes League All-Stars. Johnson’s classmate, lefthander Scott Bickford, currently is pitching for the Delaware (Ohio) Cows of the Great Lakes League.

The Americans then will head overseas for an international tournament in the Haarlem, The Netherlands, and the World Championship in Messina, Italy.

Sullivan – who has allowed just one earned run, four hits and four walks in 17.1 innings with Team USA – registered five Ks in Thursday’s win while yielding his only walks of the season. Japan opened the scoring in the third inning when shortstop and cleanup hitter Takashi Toritani drew a leadoff walk before coming around to score on a pair of groundouts and a wild pitch.

Stanford rightfielder Carlos Quentin (.417 batting average), South Carolina catcher Landon Powell (.421) and Tulane first baseman Michael Aubrey (.391) continued to carry the USA offense, with the rest of the team batting just .218 through the first seven games. Aubrey drew a leadoff walk in the fourth inning and came across as the tying run, after Quentin’s double to left field from the cleanup spot and Powell’s sacrifice fly to center.

One-out doubles from Powell and California third baseman Conor Jackson then plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.

The USA juggled its lineup versus the tough lefty Wada, with six righthanded batters in the starting nine.

GAME 6 RECAP (JAPAN 7, USA 2) – In Wednesday’s game, Cal State Fullerton RHP Wes Littleton was erratic in relief after Rice’s Phil Humber walked the leadoff batter in the 5th … Littleton then had a wild pitch sandwiched around two more walks before Shuichi Murata’s two-run single and a throwing error by Stanford RF Carlos Quentin cleared the bases for a 6-2 Japan lead … another CWS performer, Texas righthanded closer (and Johnson’s Team USA roommate) Huston Street, tossed a scoreless 6th before Johnson took the mound in the 7th … his first batter was one of Japan’s top hitters, 1B Tomochika Onizaki, and the three-hole batter reached on a leadoff walk – but Johnson got out of the inning by retiring cleanup hitter Taketoshi Goto on a double-play ball to Tulane first 1B Michael Aubrey, followed by another groundout to end the inning … Johnson opened the 8th by inducing a flyout to left but SS Tatashi Toritani then doubled to left field, moved up on a groundout and scored on a pitch that got past Georgia C Clint Sammons … another Cal State Fullerton RHP, Chad Cordero, recorded the final four outs for the USA … the Americans held a 10-6 edge in hits but left 13 runners on base while the USA pitchers combined to walk 11 … playing as the visiting team, the USA jumped on starter Takuma Koide for a pair of 1st-inning runs …. Southern 2B Rickie Weeks led off with a single and moved up on a pair of wild pitches, followed by Stanford CF Sam Fuld’s walk, Aubrey’s RBI single and Quentin’s sacrifice fly … Japan claimed the lead in the 3rd, via a pair of walks and RBI singles from Eiichi Koyano, Goto and Naotaka Takehara … Ryo Kawashima then took the mound and threw five shutout innings to earn the win (5 H, 4 Ks), with Japan adding a final run in the 8th … Aubrey (3-for-4, RBI) led the USA offense while Weeks, Cal State Fullerton LF Shane Costa and California 3B Conor Jackson each added two hits.

SEVEN-GAME STATISTICAL UPDATE: Houston’s Brad Sullivan (0.52) and Wake Forest RHP Kyle Sleeth (0.00) have led a USA staff that owns a 1.70 team ERA and .213 opponent batting avg., with 60 Ks and 23 walks in 64 innings (only extra-base hits allowed are four doubles) … Sleeth – who went 14-0 during the 2002 college season – has posted a pair of impressive outings, allowing just seven hits and three walks in his 16 shutout innings while totaling 15 Ks … the USA offense is batting .268 with two home runs, two triples, 12 doubles, 33 runs, 21 walks, 52 Ks and 11 stolen bases … top hitters include South Carolina C Landon Powell (.421, 6 RBI, 8 R, HR, 2 3B, 2B), Stanford RF Carlos Quentin (.417, 2 RBI, 6 R, 2 2B) and Tulane 1B Michael Aubrey (.391, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2B) … four others are batting above .200: California 3B Conor Jackson (.360, RBI, 2 R, 4 2B), Cal State Fullerton OF Shane Costa (.318, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 2B), Georgia Tech 2B Eric Patterson (.292, 4 RBI, 3 R, 7 SB) and Louisville OF Mark Jurich (2-for-8, 2 RBI, HR) … Quentin’s Stanford teammate and fellow two-year Team USA veteran, CF Sam Fuld, is looking to break out of his 2-for-27 start (.074) as the No. 2 hitter … the rest of the offense is rounded out by Southern OF/2B Rickie Weeks (.182, 2 RBI, 4 R, 2B, 2 SB), Georgia C Clint Sammons (1-for-9, RBI), Arizona State SS Dustin Pedroia (.100, RBI, 2 R, 2B) and LSU infielder Aaron Hill (0-for-8).

Here are capsule recaps of the USA’s first five games of the summer:

USA 5, SANTA BARBARA FORESTERS 0 (June 24; Hi Corbett Field; Tucson, Arizona – Wake Forest RHP Kyle Sleeth pitched seven shutout innings (5 H, 4 BB, 9 Ks) in the USA’s opener … top hitters included Cal State Fullerton LF Shane Costa (2-for-3, 3 RBI, 2 R), Tulane 1B Michael Aubrey (3 H) and California 3B Conor Jackson (3 H) … SBF starter Matt Vasquez was touched for five runs on 11 hits over 5.2 IP … South Carolina C Landon Powell tripled and scored on Costa’s sac. fly in the 2nd … Georgia Tech 2B Eric Patterson and Aubrey added RBI singles in the 4th … Southwest Missouri’s Bob Zimmerman and Fullerton’s Chad Cordero completed the shutout for the USA.

USA 13, SANTA BARBARA FORESTERS 3 (June 25; Hi Corbett Field; Tucson, Arizona) – Cal State Fullerton RHP Wes Littleton tossed 4.2 innings of scoreless relief while the USA offense used a six-run 4th to rally from an early 2-0 deficit … Long Beach State LHP Abe Alvarez (4.1 IP) pitched around danger all night, combining with Littleton to scatter 16 singles over the nine innings … Aubrey’s one-out double sparked the big inning, followed by singles from Stanford RF Carlos Quentin (3 H, 3 R overall), Costa (2-for-4) and Patterson (2-for-4) – whose two-run single gave the USA a 3-2 lead … Southern’s Rickie Weeks (starting at LF) also drew a bases-loaded walk in the inning and scored the fifth USA run on an error by 3B Jon Brewster, ending the night for starter Travis Ingle … another six-run inning followed in the 6th, versus reliever Charley Boyce and Josh Kirk … Powell’s two-run triple into the rightfield corner highlighted the big inning, with Arizona State SS Dustin Pedroia adding an RBI single.

USA 6, JAPAN 1 (June 28; Ripken Stadium; Aberdeen, Maryland) – Houston RHP Brad Sullivan (9 Ks, 0 BB) held Japan to three hits over 8.1 innings as the USA won the series opener … Japan claimed a 1-0 lead in the 4th, when Hiroyasu Tanaka reached on an error by Pedroia and scored an unearned run on Taketoshi Gato’s sacrifice fly … Japanese starter Yuya Kubo (5 IP, 3 R/2 ER, 4 H, 5 Ks) held the USA to one hit in the first four innings but the Americans plated three in the 6th, thanks to Powell’s leadoff single and a misplay by the 1B Gato on Pedroia’s sacrifice bunt … leadoff batter Patterson then beat out a bunt and Stanford CF Sam Fuld tied the game with a sharp single up the middle … Aubrey put the USA in front after launching a deep fly ball to the warning track in center field – yielding a rare two-run sacrifice fly as Patterson motored home from second base … Powell continued to produce from the bottom of the lineup, capping the scoring with a three-run homer in the 8th vs. reliever Naohisa Sugiyama … Zimmerman notched the final two outs while Quentin hit 2-for-3 with a run scored.

JAPAN 4, USA 3 in 11 innings (June 29; The Ballpark at Harbor Yard; Bridgeport, Conn.) – Lefthander Tsiyoshi Wada’s impressive complete-game effort (6 H, 3 BB, 9 Ks) led Japan to its comeback win in the thrilling second game of the series … Wada’s outing was estimated at 200 pitches … with Japan serving as the home team, the USA took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th – but Naotaka Takehara looped a two-out single to right field versus Littleton, plating the tying run … Japan held a 14-6 hitting edge but left 16 runners on base … the USA made five errors, with two of Japan’s runs – including the gamewinner – coming unearned … Cordero was the hard-luck loser after a pair of errors helped set up Japan’s 11th-inning rally … Takehara beat out a potential inning-ending double play in the 11th, with Nobuhiro Matsuda scoring from third base to end the game … Matsuda’s sacrifice fly gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the 3rd but the USA tied the game in the 4th, after Quentin’s leadoff single, Costa’s double to the right-center gap and an RBI groundout off the bat of catcher Clint Sammons … the USA claimed a 3-1 lead in the 5th, sparked by Pedroia’s leadoff double, a pair of wild pitches and a fielder’s choice that allowed Weeks to reach (he moved up on a stolen base and wild pitch before scoring on Fuld’s groundout) … the USA used six pitchers, with Georgia Tech LHP Kyle Bakker making a solid start (5 IP, 7 H, 2 R/1 ER, 0 BB, 7 Ks) … Street and Alvarez both recorded an out in relief of Bakker while Littleton (2.1 IP) was tagged with the gametying run (Cordero then tossed two innings before Zimmerman faced the final two batters).

USA 2, JAPAN 0 (June 30; Citibank Park; Long Island, New York) – Sleeth continued his dominance by logging a two-hitter (0 BB, 6 Ks) while Louisville DH and 8-hole hitter Mark Jurich plated the only runs of the game, with an RBI single in the 2nd and a solo home run in the 5th … Sleeth allowed just a 2nd-inning leadoff double by Tomochika Onizaki and Masashi Sasaki’s single in the 9th … Japan’s Kisanuki Hiroshi was the hard-luck loser (8 IP, 7 H, BB, 9 Ks) … Jurich opened the scoring in the 2nd, when his single to left field scored Powell, before leading off the 5th with a blast over the rightfield fence … Powell and Jurich led the USA offense with two hits each.