August 23, 2006
by Zach McCann / Special to

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  • KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The United States hopes to play better in Cuba than they practiced on Wednesday.

    Canada defeated the U.S., 6-3, in a seven-inning scrimmage at Osceola County Stadium. The game was the last of five exhibition contests the U.S. played against Puerto Rico and Canada to prepare for the COPABE Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 25-Sept. 5.

    Wednesday's contest was shortened to conserve pitching for both teams.

    Mike Bacsik, Kevin Slowey, Jeff Ridgway and Lee Gronkiewicz combined for five-plus solid innings for the U.S. Nick Adenhart, who allowed five runs in less than an inning, was the only U.S. pitcher to struggle.

    Mike Kinkade put the U.S. ahead early with a two-run shot in the top of the first.

    In the fifth inning, with the U.S. up 2-1, Canada's Kevin Nicholson and Ryan Radmanovich knocked back-to-back two-run doubles off Adenhart. Pierre-luc Laforest knocked a single to drive home Radmanovich for a 6-2 Canada advantage. The U.S. replaced Adenhart with Ridgway, who recorded the last out to end the rally.

    The U.S. bats struggled for most of the game. Other than Bryan LaHair's sixth-inning homer, the Americans only hit after the first inning was LaHair's single in the fourth.

    Kinkade, LaHair and Chad Allen, the Nos. 3-5 hitters, combined to go 5-for-8.

    Meanwhile, the bottom four hitters in the lineup went 0-for-11. The Americans will need more consistency and timely hitting if they want to win in Cuba.

    "These are all great ball players," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "We need more than we got today, and I think that's what we'll get."

    In the fourth inning, LaHair attempted to score from second on wild pitch that Canada's catcher David Corrente was slow to get back to. But Corrente threw him out to end the inning with a runner on first and Brandon Wood coming to bat.

    "That was a bonehead play," Johnson said. "He thought he had wheels that he doesn't have."

    Canada's Radmanovich was 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.

    The U.S. finished the International Friendship Series 4-1, outscoring opponents, 40-14. What may be more important, the Minor Leaguers jelled and earned each other's trust.

    "Our team's great," LaHair said. "We clicked right from the beginning, and everybody's friends with everybody. And it's a good team to match."