June 18, 1998
MANSAYA, Nicaragua – Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) smacked a game-winning single to left field in the 11th inning, giving the United States baseball team a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Dominican Republic in continuing World Championship qualifier action Thursday night at Roberto Clemente Stadium.
The USA–which forced extra innings in the bottom of the ninth–improved to 9-2 for the summer and 2-0 at the 10-team qualifier tournament, which will send five teams on to the World Championship (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy). Four of the USA’s last six games have been decided by one run, with the Americans winning three of those games (including a 3-2 win over Venezuela on Wednesday).
Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance hurled the final two and one-third innings to pick up his first decision with Team USA. Nance faced just nine batters, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out three. Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos hurled the first eight and two-thirds innings, striking out 11 while allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits and no walks.
The USA next moves to Leon, Nicaragua for a game versus familiar foe Canada, with Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos slated to start for the Americans. The USA won last week’s five-game series vs. Canada, three games to two, at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz.
USC freshman DH Seth Davidson opened the bottom of the 11th with a single to left-center and moved to second on a single to center field by Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard. Baylor junior rightfielder Jon Topolski advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt before Ust–who did not play vs. Venezuela–ended the game with his clutch single.
The USA owned a 15-9 hit advantage but left 18 runners on base. Both teams made four errors that led to one unearned run for each side.
The Dominicans broke a 2-2 tie with a run in the top of the ninth before the USA countered to force extra innings. Stanford sophomore first baseman John Gall drew a leadoff walk and Clemson freshman centerfielder John Gall followed with a bloop single to third, with Gall moving to third. Davidson then lifted a sacrifice fly to center, plating Gall with the tying run.
Santos allowed a run in the first inning before the USA posted single runs in the third and fourth. The Dominicans then added a run in the fifth to forge the 2-2 tie.
Ust went 2-for-6 in the game, with an RBI, run scored, two strikeouts and two fielding plays. The USA batting order remained the same in the top four spots: Arizona State sophomore leftfielder Willie Bloomquist, Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill, Gall and Boyd. Baylor sophomore DH Jason Jennings was inserted in the #5 spot while Bard and Topolski both moved up a spot in the order. Ust batted eighth while Arizona freshman Keoni DeRenne started in favor of Davidson at second base and batted ninth. Cal State Fullerton sophomore third baseman Ryan Owens batted sixth in Wednesday’s game vs. Venezuela.
The USA made just one offensive substitution, as Davidson pinch-hit for Jennings in mid-game and remained as the DH for his timely plays in the ninth and 11th innings.
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 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.