Nicaragua Bombs Team USA At World Cup

In its biggest game yet in the 36th World Cup, Team USA came up empty against Pool B rival Nicaragua.

Even with its top pitcher, righthander Brian Bannister (Mets), on the mound, Team USA fell behind 9-0 and lost 14-2 to Nicaragua for its first loss in the World Cup. Nicaragua, coached by former Cuban national team manager Jorge Fuentes, improved to 5-0 and took over sole possession of first place in Pool B.

Nicaragua immediately got on board in the first on back-to-back doubles by Ronald Garth and veteran Jenry Roa off Bannister to make it 1-0, and former big leaguers Marvin Benard made it 2-0 Nicaragua in the third when he doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on passed ball.

The Nicaraguans chased Bannister with a four-run fourth inning, with four of the first six batters in the inning getting a hit. Benard’™s single chased Bannister, and reliever Jason Phillips (Devil Rays) gave up a two-run single to Roa to make it 6-0.

Bannister gave up eight hits and six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Relievers James Garcia (Giants), Gilbert de la Vera (Royals) and J.J. Trujillo (independent) combined to give up nine hits and eight runs in the final three innings.

Roa went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to pace Nicaragua’™s 20-hit attack, which also included a five-hit, four-run ninth inning.

Lefthander Oswaldo Mairena, who pitched 33 games in the majors for the Cubs and Marlins between 2000 and 2002, got the start and shut down Team USA’™s potent offense for the first six innings before giving up two runs in the seventh. The U.S. had 10 hits in the game but scored only when Lastings Milledge (Mets), the top prospect on the team, hit a two-run homer off Mairena in the seventh inning, scoring Rob Johnson (Mariners) and making it 9-2. Team USA did not draw a walk off Mairena or reliever Wilton Sevilla.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Cuba beat Korea 3-1 but lost shortstop Eduardo Paret for the tournament with a knee injury. The upset of the day came when Colombia stunned Taiwan 3-2 behind former Western League pitcher Roque Roman.

The host Netherlands stayed undefeated and tied with Cuba for first place in Pool A by beating Canada 7-3, with righthander Chris Begg (Giants) taking the loss for Canada. Japan beat Australia and righty John Stephens (Orioles) 4-2, while Puerto Rico run-ruled the Czech Republic 11-1 as Randy Ruiz (Phillies) homered to pace a 12-hit attack.