July 7, 2002
SANFORD, Maine – Notre Dame freshman righthander Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) picked up the victory in his first start of the summer with Team USA, logging seven strong innings Sunday night in a 8-1 win over the Sanford Mainers, one of 12 teams in the wooden-bat New England Collegiate Baseball League.
Johnson – in contention for the fourth spot in the USA pitching rotation – struck out eight Mainers batters while scattering one run, four hits and one walk over the seven innings.
Both teams plated a run in the third inning, with the USA (8-2) scoring twice in the fifth and adding another run in the sixth – before breaking open the game with a pair of two-out home runs in the four-run top of the ninth.
One of several BIG EAST players on the Sanford roster faced Johnson to open the bottom of the third, with Rutgers rightfielder Jamell Rosario sending a single into right field before moving up on a groundout and a one-out passed ball. Iona catcher Jason Motte then drove in Sanford’s only run of the game with a single to left field.
Johnson – who allowed a single from Boston College second baseman Ryan Leahy to open the bottom of the first – responded to Motte’s RBI single by displaying the strong closing ability that characterized many of his outings with the Irish. The 6-2, 220-pound sophomore-to-be faced just 15 batters while recording his final 14 outs, with that stretch including six strikeouts, one hit, one walk and a double-play ball to end the seventh.
After closing the third with a pair of Ks, Johnson added a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth before giving up his third leadoff hit of the game, as Southern Maine leftfielder Tyler Delorme singled to right. But Johnson retired the next six batters and negated to a leadoff walk in the seventh with a strikeout and the 6-4-3 double-play ball.
Johnson struck out six different Sanford batters while holding centerfielder and No. 2 batter Cory Lizarraga – one of four players on the Mainers from the University of New Mexico – hitless in his three at-bats vs. Johnson. Lizarraga – who had hits in his previous 12 games and leads the NECBL with a .362 batting average – flew out to center field, struck out looking and grounded out to the third baseman in his three ABs vs. Johnson.
Team USA improved to 8-2 on its Red, White and Blue Tour, which includes three more games vs. teams from the NECBL before playing four games in the Midwest vs. the Northern Ohio Baseball Club and the Great Lakes League All-Stars (July 12-15 in Strongsville, Ohio). The team then will head to an international tournament in The Netherlands, followed by the World Championship tournament in Messina, Italy.
Iona righthander Luke Lambo took the loss, after allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings of work.
Georgia Tech second baseman Eric Patterson opened the third inning with a double to left, coming around to score on a sacrifice bunt from Arizona State shortstop Dustin Pedroia and a sacrifice fly to center field from LSU’s Aaron Hill, who hit in the leadoff spot while serving as the DH.
The USA’s two-run fifth included a leadoff walk from Pedroia, Hill’s double to right, an RBI single to right by hot-hitting Tulane first baseman Michael Aubrey and California third baseman Conor Jackson’s run-scoring infield single. Southern second baseman Rickie Weeks then was hit by a pitch to open the sixth, coming around to score on Patterson’s single to the left-center gap and a sacrifice fly by Stanford centerfielder Sam Fuld.
New Mexico righthanded closer Derek McCready started the ninth with two outs before Aubrey launched a solo shot over the fence in right-center field. Jackson then doubled and South Carolina catcher Landon Powell walked, with a three-run blast to right from Cal State Fullerton rightfielder Shane Costa capping the scoring.
Long Beach State lefthander Abe Alvarez set down the Mainers in order to end the eighth and Texas righthanded closer Huston Street (Johnson’s Team USA roommate) set down the side in the ninth to end the game.
Aubrey’ 3-for-4 night led the USA’s 11-hit attack.