Team USA Begins Qualifier With Shutout Of Nicaragua

Complete Coverage of the Americas Olympic Qualifier

By John Manuel

October 31, 2003

It’s only one game, but Team USA made a strong statement in its opening game of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama.

Team USA bashed three home runs–a pair by third baseman Justin Leone (Mariners) and another from first baseman Graham Koonce (Athletics)–and got a combined three-hitter in a 7-0 shutout of Nicaragua.

The first of four pool-play games in Group B leaves Team USA 1-0. The Americans need only finish in the top four out of five teams in the group to qualify for the single-elimination medal round. Team USA must reach the gold-medal game to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.

Team USA came out ready to play in its opener, getting seven shutout innings from starter Jason Stanford (Indians) and getting its offense in gear early. The Americans scored single runs in each of the first two innings and two in the fourth to take command early against Nicaraguan righthander Omar Rostran.

“It took us a few innings to get the rust off our bats and get things going, but once we did we played a pretty solid ballgame,” manager Frank Robinson (Expos) said. “Jason pitched very well, and it was a good way to start the tournament. Now we’ll begin focusing on our next game tomorrow.”

Mike Rouse (Athletics) got the start at shortstop and led off the game with a walk, and he scored after a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Chris Burke (Astros) and a pair of errors by Nicaragua. Leone led off the second with the first of his two solo home runs, and Koonce extended the lead to 4-0 with a two-run shot in the third inning, scoring Grady Sizemore (Indians). In the sixth, Leone connected again off Rostran, this one a long blast to make it 5-0.

While Rostran gave up five walks, four hits and five runs in six innings, lefthander Jason Stanford (Indians) cruised. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up two hits and one walk while striking out two. Stanford, who pitched for Team USA in the World Cup in 2001, got 11 groundball outs.

“Nicaragua beat us in Taiwan (in 2001) and I didn’t want it to happen again,” Stanford said. “I went out there pretty aggressive and had them swing at my pitches. I basically used fastball and changeup and a pair of sliders. The early lead and our defense helped me relax.”

Relievers Todd Williams (Devil Rays) and Brian Bruney (Diamondbacks) finished by pitching an inning apiece. Each had one strikeout.

Team USA finished the scoring with two runs in the ninth on run-scoring doubles by Gabe Gross (Blue Jays) and Joe Mauer (Twins). Mauer, Koonce and Leone had two hits apiece for Team USA, which had nine hits overall.

Team USA’s opener was the first game of the qualifier. Later Friday, Puerto Rico was scheduled to play Canada; Cuba plays Mexico and Brazil faces host Panama. Team USA’s next game will be against Brazil on Saturday.


                   2003 USA Olympic Qualifying Team
USA vs Nicaragua
Oct 31, 2003 at Panama City, Panama (Nacional)

USA 7 (1-0) Nicaragua 0 (0-1)

AB R H RBI AB R H RBI

Rouse ss 3 1 0 0 Garcia lf 4 0 0 0
Hardy ss 1 0 0 0 Romero rf 3 0 0 0
Burke 2b 3 0 0 0 Roa dh 4 0 0 0
Sizemore cf 3 1 1 0 Abea c 3 0 1 0
Koonce 1b 3 2 2 2 Cardose 3b 3 0 0 0
Holliday dh 4 0 0 0 Rivas cf 3 0 0 0
Gross rf 5 1 1 1 Guido 1b 3 0 2 0
Mauer c 5 0 2 1 Castro ss 3 0 0 0
Laird pr/c 0 0 0 0 Garth 2b 3 0 0 0
Leone 3b 5 2 2 2 Rostran p 0 0 0 0
Reed lf 5 0 1 0 Salgado p 0 0 0 0
Stanford p 0 0 0 0
Williams p 0 0 0 0
Bruney p 0 0 0 0

Totals…… 37 7 9 6 Totals…… 29 0 3 0

Score by innings: R H E
———————————————-
USA 112 001 002 – 7 9 0
Nicaragua 000 000 000 – 0 3 3
———————————————-

E – Abea; Guido; Castro. DP – USA 1. LOB – USA 11; Nicaragua 3. 2B -
Koonce; Gross; Mauer. 3B – Reed. HR – Koonce(1); Leone 2(2). SH – Burke. SB
- Sizemore 2.

IP H R ER BB SO WP BK HP IBB AB BF Fly Gnd

Stanford W 1-0 7.0 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 22 23 7 11
Williams 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 4 1 1
Bruney 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 1 1

Rostran L 0-1 6.0 4 5 4 5 3 0 0 0 0 22 28 7 8
Salgado 3.0 5 2 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 15 17 4 3

Strikeouts – Rouse; Hardy; Sizemore; Holliday; Gross; Garcia 2; Rivas;
Garth. Walks – Rouse; Burke; Sizemore 2; Koonce 2; Holliday; Romero.

Umpires – Home:Roman 1st:Trovdart 2nd:Castillo 3rd:Okuyama
Start: 10:00 am Time: 2:14 Attendance: 150

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