Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Taiwan loses close ballgame to US

By Paul Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Although Team Cuba's last-minute decision to cancel its visit to Tainan to defend its title in this year's World University Baseball Championship was a disappointment, it did not prevent the tournament from dazzling the 5,168 spectators on hand as they witnessed the US' thrilling 2-1 victory over the hosts -- Taiwan.

Both clubs have competed in four previous contests resulting in a 2-2 split during Taiwan's exhibition visit to the American training site at Durham, North Carolina in early July.

The opening ceremony of the event was attended by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Laurent Briel, a senior officer with the International University Sports Federation.

The Taiwan team entered the competition without the services of its top three starters because of their assignment to the national squad ahead of the Athens Olympics. The American team is made up of the top freshmen and sophomores, 15 of whom have already been drafted by a Major League team.

Starting on the mound for Taiwan was freshman sensation Chiang Jien-ming (姜建銘), whose fastballs consistently clocked at 148kmh.

Chiang held the American attack at bay through the first three frames before yielding a two-out, two-run single to US catcher Taylor Teagarden in the bottom of the fourth inning. The sophomore from the University of Texas had just finished playing in the College World Series in late June.

Teagarden's two runs would be all that his team would need for the win as lefty starter Rick Romero of California State University at Fullerton yielded no runs on three hits while fanning 12 in seven innings.

"There is no question that Taiwan is a great team," Romero told reporters in the post-game interview. "They were all tough outs out there for me tonight."

Taiwan manager Kung Jung-tang (龔榮堂) was impressed by the way Romero handled his troops during the game.

Two of the three hits he allowed came on a surprise bunt and a perfectly located infield single, giving Taiwan only one solid hit against the southpaw, whose team won the 2004 US College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

"Romero really took away a lot of the things we wanted to do on offense because we simply could not make good contact on his pitches," Kung said after the game. "This is by far the best pitching performance I've seen by anyone on their staff in the five games we've played against them."

Taiwan scored its lone run in the top of the ninth inning on an error by American right fielder Travis Buck, whose misjudgment on a fly ball scored the runner all the way from first. With the runners at the corners, closer Brent Cox got the batter to ground to short to end the game.

Chiang suffered the tough loss, as he allowed only two runs on five hits in as many innings, striking out eight.

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