July 29, 1998
PALERMO, Sicily – The USA baseball team used a ninth-inning solo home run by Arizona State sophomore leftfielder Willie Bloomquist to defeat Canada, 3-2, in the final day of World Championship round-robin play Wednesday night at Campo Fondo Patti.
The USA-Canada game would have been a battle for group B’s final quarterfinal berth but Netherlands clinched that distinction moments before the start of the USA-Canada game, thanks to an 11-9 victory over group leader Australia. Korea, the Netherlands and the USA tied for third place with records of 4-3, with the Netherlands and Korea advancing to the quarterfinals by virtue of their respective 3-1 wins over the USA on the tournament’s first and second day (the USA gave away two unearned runs in both of those losses).
Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) did not start Wednesday’s game while striking out as a late-inning pinch hitter. Ust concluded the summer as the USA’s third-leading hitter, batting .378 (34-for-90) with 20 RBI, 10 doubles, three triples and 10 walks.
Canada reliever Mark Randall retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth before Bloomquist sent an opposite-field shot over the rightfield fence for his second home run of the summer.
Canada went ahead in the fifth inning, on a two-out, two-run home run to right field by DH Colin Dixon. But the USA answered in the sixth, when Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill (So, Miami) smacked his second home run of the tournament and third of the summer, a solo shot to straightaway center field. Bloomquist later tied the game in the seventh, plating UNLV sophomore rightfielder Ryan Ludwick with a single to left field.
Florida State freshman righthander Jon McDonald (2-0) tossed two and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win, with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts. Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum tossed the first six and one-third innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks, with two K’s.
Canada starter Craig Mosher tossed the first seven and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He did not allow a hit before Hill’s home run in the fifth.
Australia and Nicaragua shared for first place in Group B with records of 5-2 while Canada and Taiwan tied for sixth (both 3-4) and Russia (0-7) finished eighth. Wednesday’s other results included Nicaragua over Russia (26-5) and Taiwan upsetting Korea (2-0).
Cuba claimed the Group A title with a record of 6-0, followed by Japan (6-1) and the Dominican Republic (5-1). Italy and Panama tied for the final quarterfinal spot (3-4) while Cuba and the Dominican Republic had a game rained out. China (2-5), Spain (2-5) and South Africa (0-7) rounded out group A.
The USA concluded its summer with a record of 30-12. Joining Ust as the team’s top hitters were Texas A&M sophomore first baseman John Scheschuk (.391, 25-for-64, 15 RBI) and Ludwick (.386, 49-for-127, 27 RBI). Ludwick and LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse shared for the team home run lead (9). As a team, the USA hit .326 for the summer, with 40 home runs, a .517 slugging percentage and 48-of-70 stolen bases.
The USA pitching staff totaled a 3.72 summer ERA, with a .266 opponent batting average, 381 strikeouts, 114 walks and 380 hits allowed in 377 innings.
The USA defense posted a solid .973 summer fielding percentage, making 45 errors in 42 games. Those errors led to 28 unearned runs for the opposition, including eight at the World Championship.
The USA’s offensive numbers were noticeably down at the World Championship (.249 batting average, .468 slugging) while the pitching staff improved on its ERA (2.95) and opponent batting average (.248).