July 26, 1998
PALERMO, Sicily – The USA Baseball team again fell victim to a strong opposing pitching performance, dropping a 9-2 game to Nicaragua in the fifth day of round-robin competition at the International Baseball Associations XXXIII World Championship, held Sunday night at Campo Fondo Patti.
The loss dropped the USA to 2-3 in its quest to advance to the quarterfinals, which will include the top-four finishers from groups A and B. The teams will take Monday off before concluding round-robin play, with the USA set to face Australia on Tuesday and familiar foe Canada on Wednesday.
Australia (5-0) currently leads group B while Nicaragua (4-1), Korea (3-2) and Canada (3-2) are currently the top quarterfinal contenders. The Netherlands (2-3), Taiwan (1-4) and Russia (0-5) round out the group. Tuesday’s other games include Nicaragua-Korea, Canada-Netherlands and Taiwan-Russia while Wednesday’s other group B games are Australia-Netherlands, Nicaragua-Russia and Korea-Taiwan.
Defending world champion Cuba (5-0) leads group A, followed by Japan and Puerto Rico (both 4-1) and the host country Italy (3-2). Panama (2-3) still has a shot at the quarterfinals while China (1-4), Spain (1-4) and South Africa (0-5) round out the group.
Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) did not play in Sunday’s loss. Ust remains third on the team with a .376 summer batting average (32-for-85), behind Texas A&M junior first baseman John Scheschuk (.391, 25-for-64) and UNLV sophomore rightfielder Ryan Ludwick (.381, 45-for-118).
The USA will send ace pitcher Shane Nance to the hill on Tuesday versus group leader Australia. Nance, a sophomore lefthander from the University of Houston, is 5-1 for the summer with a 1.47 ERA, 61 strikeouts, just 14 walks and 26 hits allowed in 43 innings. Nance was the hard-luck loser in the opening 3-1 loss to the Netherlands.
The USA (28-12 overall) is hitting just .232 at the World Championship, compared to .327 overall during the summer. The Americans have faced tough opposing pitching in the World Championship losses to the Netherlands, Korea (3-1) and Nicaragua while registering wins over Taiwan (13-6) and Russia (10-0).
Nicaragua pulled away in the middle innings Sunday, registering runs in every inning from the fifth through ninth to break open a 1-1 game. Righthander Julio Raudez held the USA to two runs on three hits and two walks over the first seven and two-thirds innings (with seven K’s) before reliever Vicente Ordones set down all four batters he faced (two K’s).
Baylor sophomore righthander Jason Jennings (4-2) took the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks over the first five and two-thirds innings, with three strikeouts. Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos then allowed three runs over the next 2.1 innings (4 hits, 2 walks, 0 K’s) before Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter closed out the ninth by allowing two runs on three hits.
Nicaragua went ahead 3-1 in the fifth inning, behind RBI singles by centerfielder Sandy Moreno and leftfielder Reynaldo Padilla, before adding a run in the sixth, two runs in the seventh, another run in the eighth and the final two runs in the ninth.
The USA plated a run in the eighth, when little-used Clemson freshman centerfielder Patrick Boyd smacked a towering home run to right field, his second home run of the summer.
The USA’s initial run came in the second inning, on Ludwick’s two-out shot over the leftfield fence for his third home run of the tournament and ninth of the summer (tying LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse for the team lead).