Aug. 9, 1999
WICHITA, Kan. – The USA Baseball national team saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end Sunday afternoon at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, in the process setting up a National Baseball Congress World Series elimination game on Tuesday that will feature six current and former Notre Dame players in the respective dugouts.
The USA-seeded first in the annual 34-team, two-week-long amateur tournament-had control of Tuesday’s game before seeing the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters rally for three runs in the eighth and four in the ninth en route to a 7-6 victory.
The loss drops Team USA (22-14 overall) into the losers’ bracket round-of-16, with the national team’s next game slated for Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. CST versus the Hays (Kansas) Larks.
Tuesday’s game will reunite five current members of the Notre Dame baseball program, in addition to former lefthander Pat Davis (1995-98), who serves on the Larks’ two-man coaching staff. Irish junior-to-be righthander Aaron Heilman has been one of the USA’s top pitchers while four current Irish players are on the active Hays roster: catcher Paul O’Toole, rightfielder Jeff Felker and righthanders John Corbin and Drew Duff. Felker and Corbin will be among the senior leaders of the 2000 Irish baseball team while O’Toole and Duff are entering their sophomore seasons.
The USA now faces the daunting task of needing to win at least eight straight games to claim the 1999 NBC World Series title (the tournament concludes on Aug. 17), as only seven teams have been eliminated from the huge field.
Heilman conceivably could pitch on Tuesday (likely in relief) versus his Irish teammates, as his last outing was a short four-inning stint on Saturday (15 batters faced), in the USA’s second win of the tournament.
Santa Barbara advanced to the quarterfinals of the winners’ bracket, behind the strong pitching of Jon Shirley-who has past experience facing many of the Team USA batters as a pitcher at the University of California (the USA starting lineup typically includes five players from the Pacific-10 Conference, plus one from the University of San Francisco).
Sunday’s game featured an early pitching duel between Shirley and USA lefthander Len Dinardo. Shirley allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits and one walk over seven and two-thirds innings, with two strikeouts. Dinardo, a product of Stetson University, racked up nine strikeouts over the first seven innings, allowing three runs of four hits and no walks.
University of Houston righthander Kyle Crowell suffered the loss, after allowing two hits in the ninth that led to the tying and go-ahead run. Santa Barbara reliever Brian Schultz recorded the final four outs for the win, allowing one run on one hit and one walk, with two Ks.
Schultz and USA reliever Ben Diggins both had interesting starts to their half of the ninth. Diggins walked the first two batters before Craig Patterson delivered an RBI double to left. Jason Williams and Brian Keppinger then put the Foresters ahead with RBI singles versus Crowell and Wichita State product Blake Blasi pushed the lead to 7-5 with a groundout to short.
Schultz opened the bottom of the ninth with a pair of walks and Wichita State second baseman Koyie Hill singled to load the bases. But the USA managed just one run-on a sacrifice fly by Arizona shortstop Keoni DeRenne-with California power-hitting third baseman Xavier Nady making the final out.
The Foresters scored three runs in the top of the eighth to force a 3-3 tie, but the USA responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Stanford DH John Gall plated Nady with a double to left and UCLA leftfielder Bill Scott then scored on an error by the shortstop Williams.
Hill put the USA on the board in the third inning, belting a two-run homer to right field to plate San Francisco first baseman Tagg Bozied, who had been hit by a pitch.
Team USA stretched to a 3-0 lead in the seventh, when California catcher Mike Tonis doubled to left with one out and later scored on a two-out error by the second baseman Blake Blasi. Santa Barbara’s first hit off DiNardo was a bunt single by the catcher Patterson with two outs in the fifth (Patterson played at Notre Dame’s Eck Stadium last May, as a member of the Cal State Fullerton team that won the NCAA South Bend Regional).
The Foresters’ next hit came in the eighth, when Dinardo allowed leadoff singles by Jeff Bannon and Patterson. Williams drove home Bannon for a 3-1 game before Houston lefthander Shane Nance served up a sacrifice fly and a game-tying, bloop single from Chris Koeper. The inning’s damage was compounded by an errant pickoff throw from Dinardo, an error on North Carolina centerfielder Ty Godwin as he tried to field Williams’ liner up the middle, and a wild pitch by Nance.