July 28, 1998
PALERMO, Sicily – Notre Dame sophomore third baseman Brant Ust (Redmond, Wash.) played a key role as the USA baseball team rallied for an 8-5 victory over group leader Australia, in sixth day World Championship action Tuesday night before a capacity crowd of approximately 3,000 fans at Campo Fondo Patti.
The USA evened its tournament record at 3-3 while keeping alive its hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. The top four teams from Group A and Group B will advance, with the USA currently tied with Canada and the Netherlands for the fourth spot in Group B. The USA and Canada will meet in Wednesday night’s final round-robin action while the Netherlands will face Australia, with the Americans needing a victory over Canada and a loss by the Netherlands to secure the group’s final quarterfinal spot.
The USA and Canada are familiar foes, with the USA holding a 6-3 series edge on Canada during the 1998 summer (in which the USA is 29-12 overall). The USA took a June 10-14 series from Canada in Tucson, Ariz. (20-3, 0-1, 4-3, 15-8, 5-8) before losing 7-4 to Canada in the World Championship Qualifier on June 19. The USA then swept Canada (12-6, 8-4, 10-4) on June 15-17, with those games played in New Jersey and Connecticut.
Texas A&M sophomore lefthander Casey Fossum (4-1, 4.63, 44.2 IP, 56 K, 13 BB, 54 H) is slated to start Wednesday’s big game against Canada.
In other group B action Tuesday, the Netherlands posted a 7-5 win over Canada in 10 innings while Korea defeated Nicaragua (10-7) and Taiwan beat Russia (7-1). Three teams–Australia (5-1), Korea (4-2) and Nicaragua (4-2)-have clinched spots in the quarterfinals while Taiwan (2-4) and Russia (0-6) will not advance. Wednesday’s other games include Russia-Nicaragua and Korea-Taiwan.
The Netherlands-Australia game is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. central time while the USA-Canada game will begin at 1:00 p.m. (South Bend time). The Netherlands will clinch a quarterfinal berth with a victory, due to previous victories over both the USA and Canada.
In group A, Cuba (5-0) and the Dominican Republic (4-1) were rained out on Tuesday and will make up the game on Wednesday. Japan (5-1) and Cuba have clinched quarterfinal spot while Italy and Panama (both 3-3) are battling with Spain (2-4) for the final group A spot. China (1-5) and South Africa (0-6) round out the group, with Wednesday’s games to include Dominican Republic-Italy, Panama-Cuba, Spain-Japan and China-South Africa.
Ust remains third on the USA team with a .382 summer batting average (34-for-89), with 20 RBI, 16 runs, 10 doubles, three triples, 10 walks and 21 strikeouts. He owns a .900 summer fielding percentage at the hot corner (6 errors), with his timely play Wednesday helping atone for a pair of costly errors in the opening 3-1 losses to the Netherlands and Korea.
Texas A&M junior first baseman John Scheschuk (.391, 25-for-64) and UNLV sophomore rightfielder Ryan Ludwick (.390, 48-for-123) remain the squad’s top two hitters.
AUSTRALIA RECAP: University of Houston sophomore lefthander Shane Nance (6-1) picked up the win, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and five walks, with six strikeouts … Mississippi State sophomore righthander Matt Ginter notched his fifth save of the summer, facing seven batters over the final two innings while allowing one hit and striking out four … Australia jumped ahead 5-2 before the USA sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the eighth … USC sophomore first baseman Eric Munson and Ludwick got the rally going with one-out singles before LSU sophomore DH Brad Cresse walked to load the bases … Ust then went to the opposite field with a two-run bloop single to right, with Ust moving to second base on the throw … Arizona freshman second baseman Keoni DeRenne then delivered from the #9 spot in the batting order, plating Cresse with a game-tying groundout … Arizona State sophomore centerfielder Willie Bloomquist pushed the USA in front with a triple to the gap in right-center field and scampered home on a wild pitch to cap the scoring … Ust and DeRenne produced two-out singles in the ninth, with Ust coming home on Bloomquist’s linedrive to left field … Australia jumped ahead with a run in the third but the USA countered in the fourth, behind a Ludwick double, a Cresse flyout and DeRenne’s two-out single to left … Texas Tech sophomore catcher Josh Bard gave the USA a brief 2-1 lead in the fifth, stroking a mammoth home run inside the right-field foulpole for his second home run of the summer … Australia put two runs on the board in both the sixth and seventh innings, setting the stage for the USA rally.