July 3, 1998

TUCSON, Ariz. – The USA baseball team split a four-game series versus Korea before dropping a 6-5 game to Australia in action last week at Hi Corbett Field, home of USA Baseball. The USA has 13 warmup games remaining before heading to Italy for the World Championship, to be held July 21-Aug. 2.

The USA (16-7) next faces Japan in Scottsdale on July 3, with Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos (1-0, 4.91) scheduled to take the mound for the USA. The five-game series with Japan will continue in Tucson from July 4-7. The USA also will have a seven-inning rematch with Australia on July 6, prior to the Japan game. USA Baseball also today has announced the addition of a four-game series versus Mexico, July 8-11 in Tucson. The final three pre-World Championship games will be played in the east versus Canada, in Trenton, N.J. (July 15), Norwich, Conn. (July 16) and New Haven, Conn. (July 17).

Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust ( Redmond, Wash.) is one of 28 players currently on the USA roster, which will be trimmed to 22 for the World Championship. USA Baseball re-added Minnesota sophomore lefthander Ben Birk to the squad on June 28 while USC sophomore catcher Eric Munson was re-added to the team on July 1.

Ust started two of the games versus Korea, played in the other two as a reserve and did not see any action in the Australia game. Ust batted 2-for-8 during the week, with two runs scored, three walks, three strikeouts, one stolen base on one attempt and three fielding assists. He has appeared in 17 of the USA’s 23 games, with 12 starts, while ranking sixth on the team in batting and fourth among players with more than 35 at-bats, hitting .354 (17-for-48). His other summer stats include five RBI, nine runs, one triple, five doubles, five walks, 12 strikeouts, one sacrifice fly, 1-for-3 on stolen bases and two errors on 25 chances (a .920 fielding pct.).

After a solid showing at the World Championship Qualifier in Nicaragua, the USA returned home to face Korea on June 28, losing 5-3. The hosts came back to win 14-8 the next day but Korea responded, winning by the same score on June 30. The USA then earned a series split thanks to a 15-1 rout before dropping a tough 6-5 game to Australia on July 2.

Australia scored two runs in the first and fourth innings but the USA cut into a 5-1 deficit in the sixth, behind an RBI triple from Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill and a run-scoring single from Stanford sophomore first baseman John Gall. Australia added a run in the top of the sixth but the USA capitalized on three errors to score three times in the bottom of the inning, with Gall’s infield popup ending the inning with runners on the corners and the score 6-5.

Texas Tech junior righthander Shane Wright (1-1) took the loss, allowing four runs on nine hits over four innings with one strikeout. Birk (3 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 3K) and Florida State freshman righthander Nick Stocks (2 IP, 1 BB) closed out the game for the USA.

KOREA RECAP: Korea won the opener, thanks to a three-run seventh, with Birk taking the loss after pitching from the fifth through seventh innings. Birk allowed three runs on four hits and two walks over two-plus innings (three K’s). Santos tossed the first four innings (2 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K) while Stocks had two hits allowed and three K’s over the final three innings. UNLV sophomore rightfielder Ryan Ludwick went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Ust was 1-for-1 in a late pinch-hitting appearance. … The USA’s 14-8 win included runs in the first eight innings, highlighted by four in the second and three in the fifth. Korea plated five runs in the ninth. Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos (4-2) tossed four shutout relief innings to pick up the win, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. Stanford freshman righthander Justin Wayne allowed three runs on six hits over the firs four innings, with two K’s. Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter had the rocky ninth inning, giving up four hits while adding a wild pitch and hit batter. The USA belted 19 hits, led by Ludwick (3-for-5, 2B, 3 R, RBI) and rarely-used California freshman second baseman Xavier Nady (3-for-6, 3 RBI, R). LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse also had three hits in the #9 spot while Ust went 1-for-3 in the #2 hole, with two walks and a run scored. … Korea’s 14-8 win included nine runs from the 4th-6th innings and 17 overall hits. The USA led 6-3 after three innings but could not solve righthander Byun-Hyun Kim, who totaled 15 strikeouts over the final six and two-thirds innings while allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits and one walk. Florida State freshman righthander Nick Stocks (0-2) took the loss, facing eight batters in the fifth while recording two outs and allowing four runs on four hits and two walks (with one K). Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum tossed the first four innings, allowing six runs (just three of them earned) on seven hits and three walks, with seven K’s. Clemson sophomore righthander Ryan Mottl closed out the game, allowing four runs on six hits and one walk (one K). Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard (3-for-5, 2B, 2 R) led the USA 14-hit attack while Ludwick (2-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI) stayed hot. Ust came on to pinch hit, striking out in both his at-bats. … Cresse paced the 15-1 win with a grand slam while Baylor sophomore righthander Jason Jennings (3-0) tossed a three hitter, facing only 31 batters while allowing one walk and striking out 14. The USA scored eight unearned runs in the first inning and led 11-0 before Korea scored in the sixth. Ust went 0-for-2 but walked and scored in the big first inning, which included Cresse’s four-run blast and a three-run shot by Hill. The USA’s 18-hit game was led by Texas A&M junior first baseman John Scheschuk (4-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R) and Baylor junior outfielder Jon Topolski (3-for-5, 3B RBI, R).

NOTES: Top USA hitters with more than 35 ABs: Gall (.434, 24 RBI, 2 HR, 10 2B), Ludwick (.409, 18 RBI, 5 HR, 9 2B), Bard (.403, 11 RBI, 1 HR, 7 2B) and Ust … two of the team’s primary outfielders heading into the World Championship Qualifier rank at the bottom of the team hitting stats: Arizona State sophomore Willie Bloomquist (.269, 3 RBI, 12 R, 5 2B, 12 K) and Clemson freshman Patrick Boyd (.245, 6 RBI, 7 R, 16 K) … Ust is one of six players competing for a spot among second basemen, shortstop and third basemen, with the others being Nady (.355, 11-for-31, 5 RBI, 6 R, 27 chances/0 errors), Cal State Fullerton sophomore third baseman Ryan Owens (.339, 19-for-56, 17 RBI, 11 R, 1 HR, 28 chances/3 errors), Hill (.338, 24-for-71, 11 RBI, 23 R, 1 HR, 6-8 SB, 77 chances/5 errors), USC freshman shortstop Seth Davidson (.295, 13-for-44, 6 RBI, 8 R, 1 HR, 25 chances/0 errors) and Arizona freshman second baseman Keoni DeRenne (.271, 16-for-59, 8 RBI, 11 R, 75 chances/3 errors) … team stats: .334 batting, 17 home runs, 35-50 SB, .971 fielding (27 errors), 4.07 ERA, .270 opponent batting avg., 224 K’s thrown/57 walks allowed … four pitchers have three of more starts: Jennings (0.73, 3-0, 24.2 IP, 5 GP/3 GS, 15 H, 5 BB, 31 K), Fossum (4.56, 2-0, 25.2 IP, 6 GP/4 GS, 31 H, 8 BB, 34 K), Santos (4.91, 1-0, 22 IP, 5 GP/4 GS, 28 H, 3 BB, 25 K) and Mottl (4.97, 1-0, 25.1 IP, 5 GP/4 GS, 39 H, 9 BBB, 25 K) … other top pitchers with 15-plus innings include Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance (1.59, 2-0, 17 IP, 6 GP/1 GS, 8 H, 6 BB, 26 K) and Ramos (4.96, 4-2, 16.1 IP, 7 GP/2 GS, 17 H, 9 BB, 22 K).