June 21, 1998
MASAYA, Nicaragua – A two-run sixth inning and strong pitching from Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance proved to be the difference as the USA baseball team posted another one-run victory, 4-3 over Argentina in continuing World Championship Qualifier action Sunday afternoon at Roberto Clemente Stadium.
The USA improved to 3-2 at the qualifier, with each of its wins coming by one run. The Americans are 10-4 overall during the summer, with five of their last nine games decided by one run (the only loss in those games was 1-0 vs. Canada). Argentina fell to 1-4 at the 10-team qualifier, which will send its top five teams on to the World Championship (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy).
The USA returns to action Monday afternoon vs. Honduras in Masaya, Nicaragua, with Baylor sophomore righthander Jason Jennings slated to start. The USA’s remaining qualifier games are vs. Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua.
Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) made his seventh start of the summer, batting 2-for-3 while scoring the USA’s first run. Ust now ranks fifth on the team in batting average (.346, 9-for-26), with five RBI and four runs scored. He made his first error of the summer in Sunday’s game (18 total fielding chances). Ust is one of 26 players on the active roster, which will be trimmed to 22 for the World Championship.
Nance (2-0) allowed just one run on two hits and three walks over seven innings, with nine strikeouts. Nance’s impressive summer includes an 0.64 ERA in five appearances and 14 innings, with 20 strikeouts, four walks and four hits allowed.
Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum came on for his first save with Team USA, despite allowing two runs on two hits over the final two innings (four K’s).
Argentina struck first with a run in the top of the third but the USA answered in the bottom of the inning. Ust singled to open the inning and stole second before scoring on a single to right-center by Arizona freshman second baseman Keoni DeRenne. A groundout moved t DeRenne to third before Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill brought home the second run with a sacrifice fly.
The USA padded its lead in the sixth behind a solo home run from Stanford sophomore first baseman John Gall (his first of the summer) and a double by Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard, who came around to score an unearned run two batters later, after a costly error by Argentina.
Argentina first baseman Pablo Stortoni’s two-run home run cut the USA lead to 4-3 in the eighth but Fossum struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the win.
The USA batting order remained the same in the top three spots–Arizona State sophomore centerfielder Willie Bloomquist, Hill and Gall–while Bard hit cleanup and Cal State Fullerton sophomore DH Ryan Owens batted fifth. USC freshman leftfielder Seth Davidson hit in the #6 spot, followed by Baylor junior rightfielder Jon Topolski, Ust and DeRenne.
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 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.