June 11, 1998
TUCSON, Ariz. – The USA Baseball team improved to 5-0 in its summer exhibition season after handing Canada a 20-3 loss Wednesday night at Hi Corbett Field, in the opener of a five-game series between the neighboring countries.
Notre Dame freshman righthander Aaron Heilman (Logansport, Ind.) saw his first action with Team USA, facing five batters in a shutout seventh inning while recording a strikeout, walk and hit batter. Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) did not appear in the game, after drawing two starts and a late-inning appearance in the previous three games.
Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos picked up the win in a planned rotation, with his seven strikeouts including five straight over his four-inning outing. Ramos allowed one run on three hits and two walks while facing just two batters over the minimum (14), thanks to three double plays by the USA infield.
Florida State righthander Nick Stocks allowed two runs on one hit and one walk over the next two innings, with three K’s. Heilman was the first of three pitchers to add a shutout inning, with Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos coming on to retire three straight batters in the eighth before Arkansas sophomore righthander Dan Wright overcame two hits and a walk in the ninth.
The Canada series continues through June 14. The USA then will depart for the World Championship qualifier in Managua, Nicaragua (June 17-26). Thursday’s probable starter for the USA is Oklahoma State freshman lefthander Matt Smith or Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum (1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 9 K). Smith is one of seven hurlers among the 20-pitcher staff who have yet to make an appearance for Team USA.
Canada jumped ahead with a run in the first but the hosts answered in the bottom of the inning, behind a two-run double from Stanford sophomore first baseman John Gall. Team USA then broke the game open with a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and seven in the sixth before adding three more runs in the sixth and five in the seventh.
The USA offense pounded out a season-high 22 hits, including eight for extra bases and three triples (tying a Team USA record). Gall’s three doubles also tied a Team USA record while Baylor junior outfielder Jon Topolski stroked his first home run of the summer, a solo shot in the eighth.
Team USA has outscored its opponents 63-12 in the five games this season, including a four-game sweep of Mexico. The USA pitchers own a 1.80 team ERA (nine earned runs) and have allowed just 37 hits and nine walks in 45 innings.
Ust is one of four third basemen competing for a spot on Team USA. Cal State Fullerton sophomore Ryan Owens has the best batting average among that group, hitting at a team-best .727 clip (8-for-11) over the first five games, with six RBI and one error on seven chances. LSU sophomore Blair Barbier is 3-for-6 with two RBI and two errorless fielding plays. Left-handed hitting Arizona junior Omar Moraga is 3-for-7 with one RBI and one error in eight chances. Ust is 2-for-7, with one RBI, two runs, a triple, one walk, two strikeouts and six errorless fielding plays.
Other top hitters among players with 10-plus at-bats include Gall (7-for-11, 7 RBI), UNLV outfielder Ryan Ludwick (6-for-13, 4 RBI) and Arizona second baseman Keoni DeRenne (5-for-11).
USA Baseball ultimately will select 22 players to comprise the national team, from the current player pool of 44. The team is in the midst of playing 33 games in preparation for the World Championship (July 21 – Aug. 2), which will feature reigning world champion Cuba, the host country Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia. Five additional teams will qualify from the Americas while the African champion and Oceanian champion also will compete.
In addition to the United States, the 10-team qualifier tournament will feature Argentina, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.