June 25, 1998

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard slashed a two-out single to left field in the bottom of the 10th inning, plating Baylor junior outfielder Jon Topolski with the winning run as the USA Baseball team averted an upset, 13-12 over Mexico, in continuing World Championship Qualifier action Wednesday night at Managua Stadium.

The win gave the USA a 7-2 record and second-place finish at the qualifier, with the Americans serving as one of five teams that will advance to the World Championship (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy). The USA (14-4 overall) has played nine games this summer that have been decided by 1-2 runs, winning seven of them. Six of the team’s close wins have come at the qualifier, including three one-run wins in nine innings, Thursday’s one-run win in 10 innings, a one-run win in 11 innings and a two-run win in 14 innings.

Mexico, which saw all of its starters record a hit and eight of the nine starters score a run, finished the tournament with a 1-8 record.

Notre Dame sophomore Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) started the game at third base while recording four at-bats (full boxscores again were unavailable from USA Baseball).

Topolski was hit by a pitch with one out in the 10th and promptly stole second base before taking third on a groundout. Cal State Fullerton sophomore infielder Ryan Owens then drew an intentional walk before Bard ended the game with his single to left.

The USA carried a five-run lead into the ninth inning but Mexico erupted for seven runs and a stunning 12-10 lead. The Americans forced extra innings when LSU sophomore catcher Brad Cresse doubled home Topolski and Owens.

Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos hurled one and one-third scoreless innings to earn his second win in as many days. Ramos struck out the side to seal the win, which featured five pitchers that combined for 14 strikeouts.

Cresse led the USA attack with four RBI, a home run and the clutch double. Texas A&M junior DH John Scheschuk chipped in three hits and three RBI for the USA.

Team USA will take Friday off before traveling back to the USA baseball training facility in Tucson, Ariz. The team then will face Korea at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday night.

Ust is one of 26 players on the active roster, which will be trimmed to 22 for the World Championship. The 16-team World Championship will include 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.

Team USA has the following schedule before heading to Italy:

Sun.    June 28     Korea                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson, AZ)Mon.    June 29     Korea                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Tue.    June 30     Korea                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Wed.    July 1      Korea                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Thu.    July 2      Australia                           Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Fri.    July 3      Japan                               Scottsdale Stadium (Scottsdale, AZ)Sat.    July 4      Japan (6:05 p.m.)                   Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Sun.    July 5      Japan                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Mon.    July 6      Australia (5:05 p.m.; 7 innings)    Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)                    Japan (following first game)        Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Tue.    July 7      Japan                               Hi Corbett Field (Tucson)Wed.    July 15     Canada                              Mercer County Waterfront Park (Trenton, NJ)Thu.    July 16     Canada                              Thomas J. Dodd Stadium (Norwich, CT)Fri.    July 17     Canada                              Yale Field (New Haven, CT)