July 6, 1998
TUCSON, Arizona – The USA baseball team split two games Monday night at Hi Corbett Field, dropping the seven-inning opener to Australia (8-5) before posting yet another close win, 4-3 over Japan in the fourth game of a five-game series.
The USA (19-9) has clinched the Japan series, 3-1, heading into Tuesday night’s series finale, with Florida State freshman Jon McDonald (0-0, 1.80) slated to make his first start of the summer. The Americans now are 9-2 in games this summer decided by one run or in extra innings.
Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) did not play in Monday’s first game before going 2-for-3 with a double, sacrifice bunt and run scored versus Japan, bumping his summer batting average to .362. Ust is one of 26 players on a roster that will be trimmed to 22 for the World Championship (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy).
After the Japan series, the USA will play a four-game series versus Mexico, July 8-11 in Tucson. The final three pre-World Championship games will be played in the east versus Canada, in Trenton, N.J. (July 15), Norwich, Conn. (July 16) and New Haven, Conn. (July 17).
Australia scored in each of the first five innings en route to an 8-0 lead. Baylor righthander Jason Jennings (3-1) took the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks over two and one-third innings, with one strikeout. Stanford righthander Justin Wayne made just his second appearance of the summer, allowing five runs over the final four and two-thirds innings on seven hits and two walks (four K’s).
The USA used five hits to score four runs in the seventh inning and brought the tying run to the plate but could not complete the rally.
Arizona freshman second baseman Keoni DeRenne provided a crucial two-run single in the eighth inning of the nightcap, pushing the USA to a 4-1 lead. Japan then scored twice in the bottom of the inning before DeRenne fielded a sharp grounder and nailed the potential tying baserunner at the plate.
Clemson sophomore righthander Ryan Mottl (2-0) allowed one run over seven innings, scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out four. Minnesota sophomore lefthander Ben Birk then recorded just one out while allowing two runs on three hits before Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter came on for his third save, facing six batters while recording one walk and two K’s.
The USA has clinched the 27th annual USA-Japan College Baseball Championship series and owns a 17-10 edge in the series history (the Americans have never lost a series to Japan on home soil).
Ust and Cal State Fullerton sophomore third baseman Ryan Owens have produced similar numbers through 28 USA games. Ust has appeared in 21 games with 15 starts while batting .362 (21-for-58), with 11 RBI, 10 runs, one triple, eight doubles, seven walks, 15 K’s, 1-for-3 on stolen bases, one sacrifice fly and one sac. bunt. Ust has made four errors on 40 fielding chances, for a .900 fielding percentage.
Owens has played in 23 games with 16 starts while batting .349 (22-for-63), with 18 RBI, 12 runs, one home run, two triples, six doubles, four walks, four times hit-by-pitch, 13 K’s, two double plays hit into, 2-for-2 on stolen bases and one sacrifice fly. Owens has made four errors on 30 chances (.867). He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored Monday versus Australia but also made an early error that cost a run.