June 15, 1998
TUCSON, Ariz. – The USA baseball team wrapped up its five-game series vs. Canada by posting a 15-8 win on Saturday night before suffering an 8-5 loss Sunday night at Hi Corbett Field.
The 26-man USA team (7-2)–which includes Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.)– arrived in Managua, Nicaragua on Monday morning and will practice Tuesday before beginning play Wednesday in the 10-team World Championship Qualifier. The top five teams in that 10-day qualifier will advance to the World Championship, to be held July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy.
Ust started Saturday’s game, going 1-for-3 with a two-run double, one strikeout and a fielding assist. He pinch-hit for Clemson third baseman Ryan Owens in Sunday’s loss, going 0-for-1 with one strikeout and two assists. The 6-1 righthanded-hitting Ust is batting .308 (4-for-13) in six games, with three RBI, two runs, one double, one triple, one walk, four strikeouts and 12 errorless fielding chances.
Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter tossed a scoreless sixth and seventh inning to earn the win, allowing two hits with one strikeout. Texas Tech junior righthander Shane Wright allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth before Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance retired three straight batters to close the game (one K).
Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos had a rocky first three innings, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out five. Florida State freshman righthander Jon McDonald then allowed two runs on two hits over the next two innings.
The Americans pounded out a season-high 23 hits while scoring in seven of nine innings. The USA widened its early 3-2 lead with five runs in the third and single runs in the fifth and sixth, yielding a 10-7 lead, before breaking the game open with four runs in the seventh. A two-run home run by UNLV sophomore rightfielder Ryan Ludwick highlighted the five-run third inning.
The USA set a team record with four triples, from Stanford sophomore leftfielder John Gall, Baylor junior centerfielder Jon Topolski, Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill and Owens. The USA’s 38 total bases also included six doubles and one home run while Hill tied a team record with three stolen bases.
Canada third baseman Colin Dixon had a pair of two-run doubles in Sunday’s game, giving Canada its second win over the USA (they posted a 1-0 shutout on Thursday night). Righthander Lee Card earned the win in relief of Brett Kondro, who allowed four runs on nine hits over the first five innings. Card allowed just four hits and one run the rest of the way, while striking out four USA batters.
Rice sophomore righthander Mario Ramos took the mound for the USA in the seventh inning but was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and one walk over one and one-third innings, with one strikeout. FSU freshman righthander Nick Stocks tossed the first four innings, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks (four K’s). Baylor sophomore righthander Jason Jennings then allowed an unearned run over the next two innings (3 H, 1 BB, 2 K). Nance came on in place of Ramos and closed the game by retiring five straight batters (three K’s).
Dixon’s second-inning double tied the game in the fourth inning before Ted Salhani’s single gave Canada a 3-2 lead. Dixon’s two-run double in the seventh then pushed Canada back in front, 6-5.
Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard went 3-for-3 with two RBI to lead the USA, which outhit Canada 13-10. Both teams left six runners on base while USA errors on Hill and LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse led to a pair of costly unearned runs.
The top USA hitters remain Owens (.600, 12-for-20, 8 RBI, 1 HR), Gall (.583, 14-for-24, 11 RBI), Hill (.444, 8-for-18, 4 RBI, 7 R) and Ludwick (.429, 12-for-28, 8 RBI, 2 HR). The team batting average is .373 through the combined four games vs. Mexico and five vs. Canada while the staff ERA is 3.04 and the team fielding pct. is .969 (11 errors).
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. 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.