June 17, 1998
MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Strong pitching and error-free defense propelled the USA baseball team to a 3-2 win over Venezuela in the opening game of the World Championship qualifier tournament, held Wednesday afternoon at Managua Stadium.
Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.)–one of 26 players remaining on the USA roster–did not play in Wednesday’s game. Cal State Fullerton sophomore Ryan Owens started the game at third base, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum (2-0) picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks over five and two-thirds innings, with nine strikeouts. Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter faced just 12 batters the rest of the way, allowing two hits while striking out five.
The USA next heads to Masaya, Nicaragua and Roberto Clemente Stadium for a Thursday night game versus the Dominican Republic. Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos is slated to start for the Americans.
USC freshman second baseman Seth Davidson opened the scoring in the top of the third, with a solo home run to right field. Team USA (8-2) then added two runs in the fifth, with Stanford sophomore first baseman John Gall doubling home Arizona State leftfielder Willie Bloomquist for a 2-0 lead. Losing pitcher Jose Avila then issued an intentional walk to Clemson freshman centerfielder Patrick Boyd to load the bases before hitting LSU sophomore DH Brad Cresse with a pitch, allowing Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill to score for the USA’s third run.
Venezuela made for a tense finish by using two hits and two walks to push across a pair of runs in the sixth.
The USA did not make a substitution to the starting lineup while using the following batting order: Bloomquist, Hill, Gall, Boyd, Cresse, Owens, Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard, Baylor junior rightfielder Jon Topolski and Davidson. Gall’s 2-for-4 game gives him a .571 batting average for the summer, moving him past Owens (.522) as the USA’s leading hitter.
In addition to the United States, the 10-team qualifier tournament features Argentina, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. The 16-team World Championship will feature the five qualifying teams from the Americas, plus reigning champion Cuba, the host country Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, the African champion and the Oceanian champion.