College Top 25 (May 4)
Louisiana State remains No. 1 in the Baseball America College Top 25, presented by Louisville Slugger, for the third consecutive week. California, Auburn and Houston all entered this week’s rankings. […]
2004 Olympics: Day Five Recap
Compiled By John Manuel
Japan Ends Canada's Win Streak; Italy upsets Taiwan
Complete Index of 2004 Olympic Coverage
Japan rocked Canada starting pitcher Mike Johnson (Expos) early with seven runs in the first four innings, including three home runs, on its way to a 9-1 victory in preliminary action at the Olympic baseball tournament. The win moved Japan into a first-place tie with Canada, which was the event's last unbeaten team, and Cuba at 4-1.
Canada has Cuba and Australia for its final two games before the four-team medal round begins, while Japan faces Asian rival Taipei next before finishing the round robin against winless Greece.
Lefthander Tsuyoshi Wada made his first start of the tournament for Japan and was effective in seven scoreless innings, limiting Canada to three hits while striking out seven. Kosuke Fukudome, Yoshinobu Takahashi, Kenji Jojima and Kazuhiro Wada all had two hits apiece to pace the Japan offense.
Canada, which had blanked three of its first four opponents, saw its ERA of 0.50 rise to 2.25. Johnson, who started a shutout of Taiwan in the Olympic opener, allowed seven runs on six hits.
"They're a good fastball team and when you leave fastballs over the plate, they're going to make you pay for it," Johnson said. " The best thing for us to do is put this behind us."
Takahashi got things started in the first for Japan with a two-run homer, his first of the tournament. Yoshitomo Tani added to the lead in the second as he hit a solo home run, also his first. Japan increased its lead to four runs in the next frame as Fukudome doubled and scored on Takahashi's sacrifice fly.
Johnson appeared to settle down for Canada after getting the first two outs of the fourth inning, but the Japanese would have four consecutive runners reach base, as Wada launched a two-run homer to right field and Fukudome laced a RBI single to score Astushi Fujimoto.
Japan continues to lead the competition in home runs with 10 in five games. Japan is also the top hitting team with a team batting average of .333.
Canada got its first run across home plate in the ninth inning as Stubby Clapp (Blue Jays) doubled and scored on a single by Danny Klassen (Tigers). Catcher Pete LaForest was 2-for-3 to lead Canada.
Cuba 9, Netherlands 2
Cuba allowed just five hits on the night while the batters put together 12 hits as Cuba improved to 4-1 in the competition, tied with Japan and Canada for first place. The loss drops Netherlands to 2-3, tied with Taiwan and one game behind Australia for the fourth and final spot in the medal round.
Lefthander Adiel Palma earned the win after entering the game in the fifth inning and hurling three scoreless, hitless innings. Cuba starter Norge Vera went four scoreless innings, allowing three hits before being removed early in the rout.
Cuba got to Netherlands starter Eelco Jansen in the third inning and knocked him out of the game after collecting seven singles to open up a 5-0 lead. Eduardo Paret had a RBI walk, Michel Enriquez a two-run single and Yulieski Gourriel and Frederich Cepeda tallied RBI hits. Five different Cuba players had two hits on the evening; Enriquez, Gourriel, Ariel Pestano, Eriel Sanchez, Alexi Ramirez.
Cuba put the game away with a five-run fifth. Enriquez and Gourriel led the inning of with singles. Following Osmani Urrutia's sacrifice bunt, Cepeda walked to load the bases. Pestano followed with a two-run single to score Enriquez and Gourriel. Sanchez and Ramirez added RBI singles as the Cubans took a 9-0 lead.
Netherlands scored its two runs in the final two innings on a pair of solo home runs from former Angels farmhand E.J. t'Hoen and Yurrendel de Caster (Pirates) off Cuban relievers Manuel Vega and Pedro Luis Lazo.
Cuba plays Canada on Saturday in a matchup of likely medal-round teams, then finishes its schedule against Italy. Netherlands plays Australia and then Taiwan on Sunday. "The two games against Australia and Taiwan are the ones which will determine if we will make it to the finals," said Dutch infielder Ivanon Coffie (Astros).
Australia 11, Greece 6
Rallying from a 4-0 deficit with home runs, Australia improved to 3-2 in the highest-scoring game of the tournament and moved into fourth place by beating Greece, eliminating the host nation from medal contention.
Brett Roneberg (Red Sox) hit a pair of solo home runs and Brendan Kingman added a three-run homer during a five-run seventh inning as Australia came from behind for its third straight victory while keeping Greece as the lone winless team.
Tied at 5-5 in the seventh inning, Australia put together five hits off Greek relievers Sean Spencer (Orioles) and Pete Sikaras (Diamondbacks) to take its first lead of the game. Gavin Fingleson's RBI single broke the tie and was helped along by another RBI hit from former big leaguer David Nilsson. The big hit came from Kingman, the former Mariners farmhand, who launched a three-run shot over the center-field wall off Sikaras that put Australia on top 10-5. Each team would trade runs in the eighth inning before Australia closed the game out in the ninth.
Lefthander Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners) pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief to pick up the win for Australia, his second of the tournament. Spencer took the loss for Greece after allowing two runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings of work.
Fingleson, Roneberg and Glenn Williams (Blue Jays) had two hits apiece to lead Australia while Greece was led by Jim Kavourias (Marlins), who batted 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Nick Markakis (Orioles), Greece's leading hitter, also had two hits.
Greece came out on the offensive early with three runs in the first inning off Australia starter Craig Anderson (Mariners). Cory Harris (Orioles) had a RBI single and Kavourias drove in two runs with a base hit as Greece took its first lead of the tournament.
Greece went ahead 4-0 in the second inning as Peter Maestrales (Newark, independent) knocked a solo home run to left center. Anderson gave up eight hits and four runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
The Australians would cut the lead to just one run in the bottom of the third on a two-run homer from Paul Gonzalez and a solo shot from Roneberg.
Greece extended the lead back to two runs in the fifth on back-to-back doubles from Kavourias and Peter Rasmussen. However, Australia tied it up in the bottom half as Roneberg hit his second solo home run of the night and Nilsson walked, advanced on a double and scored on a RBI from Thomas Brice (White Sox).
Greece meets Italy before finishing its schedule against Japan.
Italy 5, Taiwan 4
Former Mariners farmhand Claudio Liverziani hit a game-winning two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift Italy to its first victory of the competition, dealing Taiwan's medal hopes a stunning blow. Taiwan must beat Japan and then Netherlands in its last two games to reach the medal round.
"We had some great pitching today," said Italy's Jim Buccheri, a veteran of 13 seasons in the minor leagues. "We also had some clutch hits and made no errors. We had to finish strong. We didn't want to make a mockery of it in this tournament."
Despite having just seven hits on the afternoon, Italy was able to hit three home runs and had a solid effort out of starting pitcher Dave Rollandini and reliever Peter Nyari, both former Phillies minor leaguers. Nyari picked up the win with 2 2/3 perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts. Rollandini went six 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits.
Liverziani led the way at the plate going 2-for-3 with a walk with Buccheri, Italy's leading hitter in the tournament, batting 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Italy gained the first lead of the game in the top of the third inning. Buccheri smacked a double into center field to score Seth Fera. Taiwan scored in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Chin-Feng Chen (Dodgers).
Italy reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth on a solo home run from Mario Chiarini, but Taiwan re-took the lead at 3-2 in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Chin-Yuan Chen and Chen's RBI single. Chen was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Buccheri's solo homer in the sixth off Taiwan starter Chih-Chia Chan, who struck out nine, tied the score at 3.
Cheng Min-Peng's one-out homer off Rollandini in the seventh inning gave Taiwan a 4-3 advantage before Liverziani came through in the ninth, hitting a full count pitch from Taiwan reliever Chien-Fu Yeng over the right-center field wall for the winning margin.
"We played very poorly," Taiwan manager Sheng-Ming Hsu said. "The biggest problem was that Italy's starting pitcher was good and ours was bad. We have to win tomorrow in order to be in the race for the semifinals."
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.