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Baseball America Online - Leagues

Sept. 17

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Cuba comes from behind to top Italy

By John Manuel

Team USA 11, South Africa 1

Cuba 13, Italy 5

In its second game at Blacktown Ballpark—the second site used for the Olympic baseball tournament—Cuba was less than perfect, having to come from behind to beat Italy 13-5.

The underdog Italians (0-2) spotted Cuba (2-0) three runs in the first two innings before rallying with a five-run third against Cuban starter Yovany Aragon, who isn't considered one of Cuba's top starters. Italy had six hits and took advantage of an error by Cuban center fielder Yobal Duenas to score its five runs.

Aragon gave way to Cuba's No. 4 starter, righthander Jose Ibar, who gave up one unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. Ibar struck out eight and gave up just two hits.

Cuba tied the game in the bottom of the third with a pair of runs as Duenas doubled to lead off and scored on double by first baseman Orestes Kindelan, who had three hits and a game-high four RBIs. Kindelan scored the tying run on a single by DH Oscar Macias, who also had three hits.

Cuba took the lead in the fourth on a two-run homer by Duenas, who had three hits and three RBIs, then put the game away with six runs in the fifth.

Australia 5, Korea 3

Thanks to a pair of Mariners farmhands and a big hit by team captain Dave Nilsson, the home fans at Homebush Bay Baseball Stadium had something to cheer Monday afternoon.

Nilsson, the 1999 Brewers all-star, tied the game with a run-scoring double in the seventh inning, and left fielder Glen Reeves had the game-winning hit, a two-run double in the eighth to lead Australia to its third Olympic win ever. Two of the victories have come against Korea. Both teams are now 1-1 in the 2000 Games.

Outfielder Chris Snelling and lefthander Craig Anderson, both in the Seattle organization, played key roles for the Aussies. Snelling blunted Korea's momentum when he keyed a double play in the sixth inning, making a catch in right field and gunning down a runner at the plate to end a bases-loaded, one-out rally.

Anderson pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief of lefthander Brad Thomas (Twins) and got the win, holding Korea in check while his teammates rallied. He gave up only one hit and three walks while striking out two. Righthander Grant Balfour (Twins), Australia's closer last November when it won the gold medal in the Intercontinental Cup, walked the leadoff man in the ninth but recovered for the save. Korea pinch-hit with injured star first baseman Lee Seung-Yuop, the nation's home run champion. Hobbled by a sore back and ankle, Lee struck out. Balfour went on to fan the side.

Nilsson, who went 2-for-4 in Australia's opening-game loss to The Netherlands, came up with the big hit when his team needed him, lashing a double to right-center to tie the score 3-3. In the eighth, Grant McDonald singled to lead off, and a Snelling walk and single by Matt Buckley loaded the bases. After a force play at the plate, Reeves lashed a 0-1 pitch to center for a two-run double.

"I think it was a big hit, not just for me but for the team," said Nilsson, who had struck out looking with the bases loaded earlier in the game. "Obviously I had a chance to blow it open earlier and didn't come through. I got the same pitch that I struck out on before.

"I think this win gets us back on track, especially a win against one of the better teams here."

Japan 10, The Netherlands 2

Team USA and Cuba emerged as the only undefeated teams left in the Olympic baseball tournament after Japan knocked off upstart The Netherlands 10-2 on Monday.

Both teams are now 1-1 and in a four-way tie for third place. The top four finishers will advance to the medal round.

Japan jumped on The Netherlands quickly, scoring one in the first, three in the second and three more in the fourth. The Japanese had 17 hits, including four by DH Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who had a homer and two RBIs. Third baseman Norihiro Nakamura had three hits, including a homer and three RBIs. Seven of Japan's starters had base hits.

On the mound, lefthander Yuji Yoshimi went five solid innings, giving up three hits and one run while walking three and striking out nine. Masato Kawano, who pitches for the Japan League's Hiroshima Toyo Carp, finished and was the only one of Japan's three pitchers who pitches in their majors.

Right fielder Dirk Van t'Klooster knocked in both Dutch runs, with a solo homer and a RBI single. The top five hitters in The Netherlands' order combined to go 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts.

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