July 6, 2002
LOWELL, Mass. – Notre Dame righthander Grant Johnson (Burr Ridge, Ill.) is slated to draw his first start with Team USA on Sunday night versus the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The game will be the third of six for the USA versus teams from the NECBL, which includes 11 wooden-bat teams comprised of college players from throughout the nation (several from teams in the BIG EAST Conference).
Real-time stats of every USA baseball game can be tracked via the internet at http://www.usabaseball.com/natl_schedule.html. The NECBL also offers internet broadcasts for all of its games via the following link: http://www.necbl.com/broadcasts.htm. Other information on the Mainers and the NECBL also can be found at the following sites: http://www.necbl.com/ , http://www.necbl.com/teams/sanford.htm and http://www.sanfordmainers.com/.
The USA currently holds a 7-2 record on its 17-game “Red, White and Blue Tour,” which will be followed by an international tournament in The Netherlands and the World Championship in Messina, Italy. The Americans posted a 6-3 win on Saturday over the Mills City All-Americans (in Lowell, Mass.), after winning 21-2 on Friday night vs. the Torrington (Conn.) Twisters.
The USA appears to have its top three spots in the rotation solidified by the potent trio of Houston’s Brad Sullivan, Wake Forest’s Kyle Sleeth and Georgia Tech lefthander Kyle Bakker — but a strong outing by Johnson (who tossed 1.2 innings of relief on July 3) could help him earn consideration for the fourth spot in the rotation. Long Beach State lefthander Abe Alvarez and Rice’s Phil Humber are the only other pitchers to start for Team USA this summer, with the top three accounting for the other seven starts.
If Johnson is able to crack the four-man rotation, he could earn a start in the Midwest during the final leg of the 17-game domestic tour – as the USA is slated to play four games in Strongsville, Ohio, on July 12-15.
The NECBL rosters include players from several common ND opponents. The Mill City All-Americans included four players from BIG EAST teams – Anthony DeRosa (St. John’s), Nick Tucci (UConn) and Boston College teammates Drew Locke and Vinnie Scavone – while Rutgers pitcher Jason Bergman is on the Torrington Twisters roster.
The Sanford Mainers roster includes three players from both BC (IF Ryan Leahy and RHPs James Dawson and Doug Fleve) and Rutgers (C Lee Moskowitz, OF Jamell Rosario and RHP Tom Malafronte), plus Bowling Green LHP Keith Laughlin. Two members of the Kent State team that played in the 2002 NCAA South Bend Regional – RHP Phil Boje and RHP Andy Sonnanstine – also are on the Mainers roster.
Here are capsule recaps of the USA’s first two games vs. the NECBL:
USA 21, TORRINGTON TWISTERS 2 (July 5; Fuessenich Park; Torrington, Conn.) – The USA pounded out 24 hits and scored in eight of nine innings, with LSU shortstop Aaron Hill (5-for-7, 5 RBI, 4 R) becoming the first USA player to collect five hits in a game since Jason Tyner in 1997 … Hill is the first to do so with a wooden bat, as Tyner, Warren Morris (’97), Jacque Jones (’96), Geoff Jenkins (’94), Doug Mientkiewicz (’94) and Jeromy Burnitz (’89) had five-hit games with aluminum bats … the 24 hits were one shy of the team record (25, vs. Spain in 1988) … Georgia Tech LHP Kyle Bakker (5 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 8 Ks) picked up the win … Stanford’s Carlos Quentin (hitting in the DH spot) continued his hot hitting (3-for-7, 6 RBI, HR, 2B) while Louisville LF Mark Jurich scored four runs, Tulane 1B Michael Aubrey continued to swing a hot bat (3-for-4) and California 3B Conor Jackson hit his first home run of the summer … Torrington starter Jason Jones was racked for seven runs on 10 hits in just three innings … Jeff Hourigan (3-for-4, 2 RBI, HR) was the Twisters’ offensive star … the hosts allowed an unearned run in the 4th and six more in the 6th that put the game out of reach.
USA 6, MILL CITY All-AMERICANS 3 (July 6; LeLachuer Field; Lowell, Mass.) – Wake Forest RHP Kyle Sleeth improved to 3-0 with another strong outing (7 IP, 3 R/2 ER, 8 H, 12 Ks), with his summer totals now including an 0.78 ERA and 27 Ks in 23 IP … Team USA opened with a pair of walks by Hill and Stanford CF Sam Fuld before Aubrey smacked an RBI single vs. Devin Monds and Cal State Fullerton LF Shane Costa followed with a run-scoring groundout … Mill City answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning but the USA reclaimed a two-run cushion in the 3rd, as Quentin (back at RF) and 2B Rickie Weeks both knocked in a runner from second base with RBI singles … Weeks later added a two-out, two-run triple in the 5th vs. reliever Brad Laurin … a 5th-inning RBI double from Boston College RF Drew Locke plated the third run for the hosts and capped the night’s scoring … Cal State Fullerton RHP Wes Littleton tossed a perfect 8th and closer Bob Zimmerman (Southwest Missouri) then notched his first save of the summer with a scoreless 9th … Aubrey’s three-hit game raised his team-leading batting average to .469, with a team-best 15 RBI … Hill went 2-for-4 (now 7-for-11 on the NECBL swing) while Fuld scored twice.