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2004 Olympics: Day One Recap
Compiled By John Manuel
Greek Team Falls Flat In Debut; Canada, Cuba, Japan Impress In Winning Openers
Complete Index of 2004 Olympic Coverage
The Netherlands 11, Greece 0
The Netherlands scored six runs in the fourth inning and five in the ninth on its way to an 11-0 win against Greece on the first day of preliminary action at the Olympic Baseball Competition. Sunday's game between Greece and the Netherlands marked the 100th official Olympic Baseball game and Greece's first baseball game played in the Olympics.
Former Orioles and Phillies pitcher Calvin Maduro hurled seven scoreless innings to pick up the win for the Netherlands, which also rapped out 13 hits. Yurrendel deCaster (Pirates), who is hitting .280-14-39 for Double-A Altoona this season, led the way with four RBIs, while outfielder Eugene Kingsale (Orioles) had three hits and outfielder Wladamir Balentien (Mariners) went 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Netherlands. Greece had just two hits on the evening, both from Nick Markakis (Orioles).
After three scoreless innings, the Netherlands got all the runs they needed with five hits in the top of the fourth off 37-year-old former big leaguer Clint Zavaras, who failed to get an out in the inning. The Dutch batted around in the frame and started the scoring with a three-run homer by deCaster. Raily Legito added a RBI single, and Chairon Isenia would score on a throwing error. Kingsale's RBI hit plated Legito to give the Netherlands a six-run cushion.
Shut down for four innings by Greek relievers Sean Spencer (Orioles), Alex Cremidans (Diamondbacks) and Peter Soteropoulos (Cardinals), the Netherlands would add its final five runs in the last inning of play. Balentien had a two-run homer off Greece's Laurence Heisler, and Ivanon Coffie (Astros), Dirk van'T Klooster and deCaster each collected RBI hits to complete the scoring.
Both teams continue action tomorrow with the Netherlands (1-0) facing Japan (0-1) on field one and the host Greece (0-1) going up against Cuba (1-0) on field two.
Canada 7, Taiwan 0
Canada's Olympic baseball debut went a bit better than that of Greece. Former big leaguer Mike Johnson (Twins) tossed seven shutout innings as Canada shut out Taiwan for Canada's first-ever win in Olympic play.
Johnson, who was Canada's top starter last fall in the Olympic qualifier and last pitched in the majors with the Expos in 2001, allowed just four hits and had three strikeouts to earn the victory.
"Itís always nice to get the first win under your belt," Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "I like our pitching and defense, and it was just a matter of time before our hitting came around."
Canada had nine hits in the game and took advantage of four Taiwan errors as well as four walks in claiming the win. Third baseman Peter Orr (Braves) and left fielder Jeff Guiel (Blue Jays) each went 2-for-4, while Orr and second baseman Stubby Clapp (Blue Jays) had two RBIs apiece to lead the Canadians. Righthanders Chris Mears (Tigers) and Aaron Myette (Reds) both also worked a scoreless inning of relief to preserve the shutout for Canada.
Chinese Taipei starting pitcher Chih-Chia Chang, who pitched for two years with the Seibu Lions in the Japan League (going 17-11, 3.88), pitched six innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits with nine strikeouts. Taiwan had six different players with hits but just two runners reached third base the entire game.
Canada took a 2-0 lead in the second inning taking advantage of two infield errors. Clapp's two-out RBI single scored Todd Betts (Yankees) and Adam Stern (Braves) to give the Canadians a two-run cushion. Canada extended its lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning as a one-out sacrifice fly from Orr scored indy leaguer Ryan Radmanovich.
Canada pushed its lead to five runs scoring twice more in the seventh inning off reliever Ying-Chieh Lin. Catcher Pierre-Luc Laforest (Devil Rays) hit a one-out RBI double down the right-field line that scored Orr and Danny Klassen (Diamondbacks). Canada scored its final two runs in the eighth inning as a RBI triple from Stern and a RBI groundout by Orr completed the scoring.
Both teams return to the field tomorrow morning in preliminary action with Taiwan (0-1) playing Australia (0-1) on field one and Canada (1-0) facing Italy (0-1) on field two. Former big league all-star Jason Dickson (Royals) is expected to start for Canada.
Cuba 4, Australia 1
Lefthander Adiel Palma threw eight scoreless innings and Michel Enriquez and Osmani Urrutia each homered as Cuba defeated Australia 4-1 in the opening game of the 2004 Olympic Baseball Tournament at Helliniko Complex.
"I was really happy about the win," Palma said after Cuba's first Olympic game since losing to Ben Sheets and Team USA with the 2000 gold medal on the line. "It meant a lot to the whole team. We played excellently."
Palma struck out five batters while walking one to earn the victory for Cuba. Australia lefthander Craig Anderson (Mariners) went seven innings and limited the Cubans to four runs on nine hits with three strikeouts to take the loss.
Cuba finished the game with 10 hits led by Urrutia, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI. Enriquez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Ariel Pestano also added three hits to help the Cuba offense. Australia had just five hits in the contest with Ben Utting hitting a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning for the lone Australian run.
Cuba went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first inning on a one-out solo home run from Enriquez. The home run was the first run scored in the 2004 Olympic tournament. Cuba increased its lead to two runs in the third inning scoring an unearned run on a two-out RBI single from Urrutia.
Urrutia came through again for Cuba in the sixth inning with a solo home run off the first pitch from Anderson over the right-field wall to increase the lead to 3-0. Enriquez collected his second RBI of the game with a RBI single in the seventh inning to score Carlos Tabares and give Cuba a 4-0 lead.
Australia rallied in the ninth inning though with three hits off Cuba reliever Pedro Luis Lazo. Rodney van Buizen (Dodgers), Utting and Glenn Williams (Blue Jays) each singled off Lazo to plate one run across for Australia, bringing the tying run up to the plate. Cuba reliever Jonder Martinez came into the game though and got Craig Lewis (Brockton, independent) to ground into a force out to end the game and earn a save.
Both teams return to preliminary action tomorrow with Australia facing Chinese Taipei on field one and Cuba facing the host Greece on field two.
Japan 12, Italy 0 (7 innings)
Norihiro Nakamura, a repeat member of Japan's Olympic team, went 2-for-2 with a home run and four RBIs, and Kosuke Fukudome also homered and went 3-for-5 as Japan crushed Italy 12-0. Yomiuri Giants ace Koji Uehara pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just four hits to pick up the win for Japan.
Japan finished the game with 13 hits on the afternoon with Nakamura and Fukudome leading the way. Daiei Hawks catcher Kenji Jojima also added three hits for Japan, and Shinya Miyamoto added two as the Japanese scored in six of seven innings before the game ended due to the 10-run rule.
Italy starting pitcher Anthony Massimino worked four innings and allowed seven runs, five earned on seven hits to take the loss. Italy's offense managed just four singles as Uehara struck out four.
Japan broke out of the gates quickly with two runs in the first inning off Massimino with Nakamura collecting his first RBI single. After a scoreless second inning, Japan put three more runs across in the third inning on a RBI double from Jojima and a two-run homer from Nakamura to extend its lead to five runs. Japan made it 6-0 in the fourth inning on Fukudomeís solo homer. Japan added another run in the next inning with a sacrifice fly RBI from Michihiro Ogasawra.
"When we scored our second run, it boosted our confidence and helped us get into a rhythm," said manager Kiyoshi Nakahata, who has replaced Shigeo Nagashima while the Japan League legend recovers from a stroke. "But we were nervous about the first game."
Andrew Kitick, an assistant sports information director at the University of South Carolina, is serving as a media liaison for the International Baseball Federation at the 2004 Olympics and will provide reports from Athens throughout the tournament. Baseball Canada media liaison Matt Charbonneau also is contributing to BA's coverage. Quotes are from the IBAF.