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2004 Olympics: Day Six Recap
Compiled By John Manuel
Australia, Canada, Cuba and Japan will vie for gold
Complete Index of 2004 Olympic Coverage
Cuba 5, Canada 2
Antonio Scull hit a two-run homer and starting pitcher Norberto Gonzalez pitched six scoreless innings as Cuba won its third straight game againstCanada on Saturday afternoon. Since outscoring its opponents 23-3 through its first three games, Canada has tallied five runs while allowing 14 in its last three contests.
"I don't think there's a concern," first baseman Todd Betts (Yankees) said. "We didn't execute today. We had guys on base but couldn't score them."
Manager Ernie Whitt added, "The last two game, I was not happy with the intensity of our players. Today, I was happy with the intensity level, but we still made mistakes, and you can't do that against teams of this caliber. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call to us, that we need to come out and play mistake-free baseball."
Gonzalez allowed just three hits and struck out four with no walks to earn his first win. Eriel Sanchez, Eduardo Paret and Yulieski Gourriel all had two hits for the Cuban offense. Sanchez, who added two RBIs, leads Cuba at the plate with a .462 batting average as well as one home run and six RBIs. A three-run second inning gave Cuba the early lead against righthander Jason Dickson (Royals). A two-out walk to Ariel Pestano set the table for Sanchez, who doubled into the gap in left center, scoring Pestano. Scull followed with his two-run homer to right field, his first homer of the competition and seventh for Cuba. The Cubans added a run in the fourth inning as Frederich Cepeda doubled and scored on another RBI single from Sanchez.
Canada cut the lead in half in the seventh inning as former big leaguer Ryan Radmanovich (independent) delivered a two-run single to right field, scoring Danny Klassen (Tigers) and Pierre-Luc LaForest (Devil Rays). Cuba pushed the lead back to three runs in the eighth inning as Michel Enriquez knocked a RBI single to score Paret.
Pedro Luis Lazo closed out the game for Cuba in the ninth inning to record his second save of the tournament. It was also Lazo's fourth appearance in the 2004 Games.
Dickson took the loss for Canada and is now 1-1. He worked five innings and allowed four runs on six hits with a strikeout and a walk. Radmanovich and Pete Orr (Braves) each finished 2-for-4.
Japan 4, Taiwan 3
Stymied early in the game by Chien-Ming Wang (Yankees), Japan rallied to beat reliever Chin-Hui Tsao (Rockies) and eliminate Taiwan from medal contention. Michihiro Ogaswara's RBI sacrifice fly in the 10th inning also kept Japan on pace to be the top seed in the medal round. The extra-inning game between the two Asian rivals was the first of the 2004 Olympics.
Yoshinobu Takanashi, who earlier drilled a game-tying home run, led the 10th inning against Tsao off with a base hit. After a walk to Kenji Jojima, Norihiro Nakamura--one of Japan's top power hitters in his long career--laid down a sacrifice bunt down the third base line to advance the runners. Tsao walked Yoshitomo Tani to load the bases and set the stage for Ogaswara. His fly ball went deep into left field and scored Takanashi to cap off a three-run come-from-behind win for the Japanese.
Takanashi was 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored to lead Japan. Jojima and Kazuhiro Wada also had two hits. Hiroki Kuroda picked up the win to improve to 2-0 in the tournament. He pitched the 10th inning and allowed just one hit. Tsao took the loss for Taiwan and is now 0-1.
Taiwan went ahead 3-0 in the third inning on a two-out three-run homer from Chin-Feng Chen (Dodgers). Wang, a member of the Triple-A Columbus roster who shut down Australia for seven innings earlier in the tournament, settled in as well, limiting Japan to just five hits in the first six innings.
However, the Japanese rallied in the seventh inning against Wang to tie the game with three runs. One-out singles from Atsushi Fujimoto and Kosuke Fukudome put runners on the corners, and Shinya Miyamoto laid down a bunt to score Fujimoto and advance Fukudome. With two outs and Fukudome still on second base, Takanashi drilled an opposite field home run to left to tie the game. Takanashi's home run was Japan's tournament-best 11th home run.
Australia 22, Netherlands 2
Four years ago in Sydney, Australia managed just two wins in the Olympic tournament, a crushing disappointment for the host nation. This time around, Australia delivered a crushing blow of its own, destroying the Netherlands to secure its first-ever spot in the medal round in the biggest blowout in Olympic history.
Even though the Dutch had former big leaguer Calvin Maduro on the mound to start the game, Australia scored 19 runs in the first three innings. The runs set an Olympic baseball record for most runs in a game by a team. The victory margin for Australia also tied the largest win margin total by a team in Olympic history. Both previous records were set in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, when Taiwan defeated host Spain 20-0 in 1992. Cuba also scored 20 runs in a 20-6 victory at the 1996 Olympics.
After losing its first two games of the tournament, Australia has won and outscored its last four opponents (Italy, Japan, Greece, Netherlands) by a margin of 48-14.
Glenn Williams (Blue Jays), whose $825,000 signing bonus (signed 12 years ago) remains the largest for an Aussie player, led the way, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs as well as four runs scored. Gavin Fingleson (independent) was also 4-for-6 with a homer, three runs scored and four RBIs. The Australians outhit Netherlands 17-4.
Maduro, who blanked Greece for seven scoreless innings earlier in the tournament, didn't even get out of the first inning as 12 Australia batters accounted for nine runs. With runners on first and second and one out, Williams got things rolling with a RBI single to score Fingleson. A walk to Brendan Kingman then loaded the bases for Thomas Brice (White Sox). His grounder to shortstop was booted by Raily Legito, allowing David Nilsson to score and keeping the bases full.
Australia took advantage of the error as Andrew Utting walked to score Williams for the third run. Paul Gonzalez increased the lead for Australia with a RBI ground out. Leading 4-0 with two outs, Australia put three hits together to increase its lead to nine runs and chased Maduro from the game. Rodney van Buizen (Dodgers) laced a two-run single, Fingleson came up to bat for the second time in the inning and had a RBI base hit and Brett Roneberg (Red Sox) capped the rally when he blasted a three-run homer.
Australia didn't let up in the second inning as it scored five more times to take a 14-run lead. Utting and Gonzalez each had RBI hits, with Fingleson providing the key hit of the inning with a three-run homer. The Netherlands would get a solo home run from Yurrendel de Caster (Pirates) in the bottom half of the inning to cut the deficit to 13 runs. Australia's offense continued to hit the Netherlands relief pitching in the third inning with five more runs in the third inning. After loading the bases, Brett Tamburrino (Twins) walked to score another run for Australia. The big play for Australia though was a grand slam home run by van Buizen.
Australia finished its scoring with a single run in the fourth inning on a RBI double from Kingman and a two-run homer by Williams in the sixth inning. The seven-inning mercy rule victory is the second of the 2004 tournament. On the opening day Japan defeated Italy 12-0 in seven innings.
Greece 12, Italy 7
One day after losing a four-run lead, Greece did a little rallying of its own, coming back from a five-run deficit to win its first game at the Olympics.
Nick Markakis (Orioles) continued his strong performance in the tournament, hitting a game-winning three-run homer and totaling four RBIs to lead the Greek offense. George Kottaras (Padres), making his first start of the tournament, also had three hits with Peter Maestrales (independent), Clay Bellinger (Orioles) and Cory Harris (Orioles) all finishing with two hits apiece.
"These fans are great. Each game the fan support is super," Maestrales said. "The fans cheer their hearts out for us, and it was special and meant a lot to us to give them a win."
Righthander Peter Sikaras (Diamondbacks), who helped cough up Greece's lead Friday against Australia, earned the win for Greece after hurling 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and giving up just three hits. William Lucena took the loss for Italy.
Down 7-6 heading into the seventh inning, Greece stormed back to take the lead with four runs. Maestrales opened the inning with a single, stole second and advanced to third base on Chris Demetral's bloop single to left field. Bellinger tied the game with an RBI single that scored Maestrales and tied the game. Markakis would then put Greece ahead for good on his three-run blast. Greece scored its final two runs in the ninth as Harris homered and Bobby Kingsbury (Pirates) knocked an RBI triple to plate home Peter Rasmussen.
Italy had control early in the game and went ahead 1-0 in the second inning on a solo home run from Jairo Ramos Gizzi, his second homer of the tournament. They would increase the lead to 5-0 in the third inning with four more runs off Greek starter Jared Theodorakos (Brewers), who earlier in the tournament had pitched six solid innings against Cuba. Gizzi had his second hit of the game to drive in a run, Claudio Liverziani delivered a two-run single and Luca Bischeri added a RBI base hit.
Greece began its comeback in the fourth inning with two runs. Demetral walked and scored on Harris' triple, and Markakis knocked in Harris, his teammate for part of the year at Class A Delmarva, with a sacrifice fly. Greece closed the gap to 5-4 in the top of the fifth with two more runs. Kingbsury walked and scored on a RBI double from Kottaras that chased Italian starter Riccardo de Santis. Maestreles' single later scored Kottaras.
"Greece really deserved to win," Italy manager Giampiero Faraone said. "(The Greek fans) may not appear to know the sport well, but their enthusiasm really helped the Greek team."
After spotting Italy a run in the bottom half of the fifth, Greece tied the game at 6-6 with another two runs in the top of the sixth. Bellinger hit a solo homer, his first of the tournament, and Kottaras drove in Markakis with a two-out RBI single. Italy regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Gizzi doubled and scored on another RBI single from Liverziani.
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.