Aug. 11, 1999
WICHITA, Kan.– The USA national team stayed alive at the National Baseball Congress World Series on Tuesday night, escaping with a 3-2 victory over the upstart Hays (Kan.) Larks at Lawrence Dumont Stadium.
The game featured six current of former Notre Dame players in the respective dugouts, most of them members of the Hays squad. Irish junior-to-be righthander Aaron Heilman-one of the aces of the USA staff-did not pitch in Tuesday’s game but could see action on Friday, when the USA returns to action in the losers’ bracket versus the Denver (Colo.) Blues, with a 5:00 p.m. CST start time.
Notre Dame senior-to-be Jeff Felker-who played first base for Hays on Tuesday while batting in the sixth spot-forced a 2-2 tie with a solo home run in the seventh inning. Irish sophomore-t0-be catcher Paul O’Toole went 0-for-4 as the Larks’ cleanup hitter.
The USA manufactured the winning run in the top of the ninth, without the benefit of a hit versus Hays reliever David Gasner. Arizona shortstop Keoni DeRenne drew a leadoff walk before moving up on a balk and a sacrifice bunt from UCLA leftfielder Bill Scott. California catcher Mike Tonis then plated DeRenee with a sacrifice fly to right field.
The USA (23-14 overall) staked a quick lead when North Carolina centerfielder Tyrell Godwin led off the game with a home run to left field. Godwin added another solo blast in the third inning, giving the USA a 2-0 lead.
Hays pushed across a run in the fifth, versus Stanford righthander Justin Wayne, and Felker tied the game in the seventh as one of the final batters that Wayne faced.
Houston lefthander Shane Nance recorded two outs for the USA in the eighth before Arizona righthander Ben Diggins (RHP, Fr, Arizona) struck out Albert Pujols with the go-ahead run at third base. Diggins (2-0) retired the side in the ninth to earn the win.
A win over the Denver Blues would send the top-seeded USA into Saturday’s action as one of 11 teams remaining in the annual 34-team amateur tournament, with the national team still needing several more wins to play its way out of the losers’ bracket.
In addition to Felker and O’Toole, the Hays roster includes Irish righthanders John Corbin and Drew Duff while former Irish lefthander Pat Davis (’98) is a coach for the Larks.