August 18, 2006
by Zach McCann / Special to

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  • KISSIMMEE - The 2000 USA baseball team won a gold medal off its deep and talented pitching staff. After Sunday, it appears the current U.S. team has the same luxury.

    The U.S. pitching staff shut down Puerto Rico's offense as the Americans scored 6-1 victory in an exhibition game at Osceola County Stadium. It was the U.S. Olympic qualifying team's first game together.

    Greg Smith and Zack Segovia each pitched three scoreless innings. Jeff Farnsworth, Jeff Ridgway, and J.B. Cox each threw an inning to finish the game. Cox allowed the only run in the 9th inning.

    "I wasn't too familiar with most of these guys, so I was pleased to see that they could throw the ball well," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "I got to see five guys today that can throw, and we'll be able to use their strengths against different clubs."

    The offense wasn't bad, but its production wasn't to where Johnson wants it to be. The U.S. scored three runs off Puerto Rico's errors and stranded seven runners.

    U.S. cleanup hitter Bryan LaHair was 3-for-5, the only American with more than one hit. Mike Kinkade and Michael Bourn both homered for the U.S.

    Kinkade kicked off the scoring in an exciting way. With two outs in the first inning, the 275-pound third baseman knocked it off the left field wall and hustled to a solo inside-the-park home run, putting the U.S. up 1-0.

    "I wondered when the last time he hit an in-the-parker," Johnson said. "He was coming around third and they hit the cutoff man and I thought he was going to hit a brick wall, but he didn't. He's the oldest player on the team and he really set the tone."

    An inning later, Matt Tupman hit a bases-loaded chopper to first base and Puerto Rico's Jose Velazquez sailed his throw into left field, letting two runners in to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead after two innings.

    In the 5th, the U.S.'s Michael Bourn scored on a Kinkade double-play grounder. Bourn reached third on a stolen base, which turned out to be a crucial play.

    "We don't have a lot of speed, and he's our speedster," Johnson said.

    Bourn hit a solo shot in the 7th, the only ball to leave the park all evening. Bobby Hill scored on wild pitch later that inning to give the U.S. a 6-0 edge.

    At the top of the lineup, Bourn and Bobby Hill combined to go 2-for-9.

    "Our leadoff guys need to do a better job of getting on than what they did tonight," Johnson said. "They're really the guys we look for to set the table."

    NOTES: Segovia didn't allow a hit in his three innings of work. ... The U.S.'s pitching staff struck out 10 and walked just two. ... Omar Garcia knocked in Juan Medina on a single to left field for Puerto Rico's only run.