July 3, 1998

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBI, helping the USA baseball team overcome a five-run deficit to defeat Japan, 7-6, in the opening game of a five-game series Friday night at Scottsdale Stadium.

The USA (17-7) emerged victorious from yet another close game, as the Americans are 8-2 this summer in games decided by one run or in extra innings. The USA and Japan will play their next four games at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, with Houston lefthander Shane Nance (2-0, 1.59) slated to start Saturday night for the USA. This year’s series marks the 27th annual USA-Japan College Baseball Championship, one of international baseball’s longest-running series. The USA holds a 16-10 series edge, losing last year 4-1, and has never lost a series played on home soil.

Japan–which will join the USA as two of the 16 teams in the upcoming World Championships (July 21-Aug. 2 in Italy)– jumped out to an early 6-1 lead before the USA used three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh to tie the game. Miami sophomore shortstop Bobby Hill then tripled to open the bottom of the ninth and Arizona State sophomore centerfielder Willie Bloomquist delivered his third hit of the night, a single to right-center that ended the game. Bloomquist entered the game with the second-lowest batting average on the team (.269) but pushed his average to .296 with a 3-for-4 night.

Rice sophomore lefthander Mario Ramos (5-2) picked up yet another victory, facing only 20 batters over the final six shutout innings while allowing two hits and one walk, with five strikeouts. Miami sophomore righthander Alex Santos was touched for six runs (five earned) on nine hits over the first three innings.

Ust’s second-inning RBI produced the first USA run but Japan used two runs in the first, one in the second and three in the third for the early 6-1 lead.

Texas A&M junior first baseman John Scheschuk ignited the USA comeback with a two-run double in the sixth, plating Stanford sophomore leftfielder John Gall and Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard. Ust–who boosted his summer average to .373–then doubled home Scheschuk, cutting Japan’s lead to 6-4.

Four USA singles tied the game in the seventh. Arizona freshman second baseman Keoni DeRenne singled to open the inning and Bloomquist followed with a one-out single, with DeRenne holding at second. Gall and Bard then delivered RBI singles, tying the game.

Little-used Arizona State freshman catcher Casey Myers went 0-for-4, dropping his summer average to .286 in 21 at-bats. The USA again did not use Cal State Fullerton sophomore third baseman Ryan Owens or Clemson freshman outfielder Patrick Boyd, who played extensively through the first 18 games of the summer.

Ust now ranks fifth on the team in batting average (fourth among players with 50-plus ABs) and is sixth on the team with 11 RBI. Ust batted seventh in the lineup Friday while Hill moved into the leadoff spot and Bloomquist dropped back to the #2 slot.