June 20, 1998

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Panama scored the final four runs of the game while cashing in a pair of USA errors en route to a 5-3 victory in continuing World Championship Qualifier action Saturday night at Managua Stadium.

The USA suddenly is battling for one of the top five spots in the 10-team qualifier, with those top five teams to move on to the World Championship (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy). The USA opened the tournament with one-run wins over Venezuela and the Dominican Republic before suffering a 7-4 loss to Canada on Friday. The Americans next face Argentina on Sunday morning in Masaya, Nicaragua, with Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance (1-0, 0.00, 4 GP, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 11 K) slated to make the start.

Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) did not play in Saturday’s game, after appearing in eight of the team’s first 12 games (six starts). Ust is one of 26 players on the active roster, which will be trimmed to 22 for the World Championship.

Florida State freshman righthander Nick Stocks (0-1) suffered the loss in relief, allowing two unearned runs on two hits and one walk over two innings, with two strikeouts. Clemson sophomore righthander Ryan Mottl tossed the first six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits while striking out six.

Team USA (9-4 overall) opened with a run in the top of the first inning, on an RBI single by Cal State Fullerton sophomore third baseman Ryan Owens. Panama tied the game in the bottom of the inning before USC freshman second baseman Seth Davidson scored on a second-inning sacrifice fly by Baylor junior rightfielder Jon Topolski. Owens added another RBI single in the third inning for a 3-1 USA lead.

Panama (3-1) used four singles to plate a run in the fourth and two double to tie the game in the fifth before rallying to victory in the seventh. Second baseman Rodrigo Meron struck out to open the inning but ended up on second base after LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse dropped the third strike and then overthrew first baseman John Gall. Stocks then recorded an out before serving up two singles that scored Meron. An error on Owens on what should have been the third out of the inning allowed the final run to score for a 5-3 Panama lead.

The USA managed just four hits in the game, two each by Owens and Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill. Miguel Perez threw eight strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and five walks, with seven K’s.

The USA batting order remained the same in the top three spots–Arizona State sophomore leftfielder Willie Bloomquist, Hill and Gall–while Owens moved into the cleanup spot, bumping Cresse to fifth. Texas A&M junior DH John Scheschuk hit in the #6 spot, followed by Davidson, Clemson freshman centerfielder Patrick Boyd and Topolski. Arizona freshman Keoni DeRenne pinch-hit for Scheschuk late in the game.

In addition to the United States, the 10-team qualifier tournament features Argentina, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. The 16-team World Championship will include the five qualifying teams from the Americas, plus reigning champion Cuba, the host country Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, the African champion and the Oceanian champion.