1997 Intercontinental Cup
The 1997 Intercontinental Cup featured one of the largest upsets in international baseball history. The Cuban national team had steamrolled through international baseball since the Omar Linares-Antonio Pacheco-Orestes Kindelan trio took the field in the 1980s. They had not lost an event for 15 years - since the 1982 Central American and Caribbean Games - the longest (by far) streak of dominance in international baseball history. They had not even lost a game in six years, since the 1991 Intercontinental Cup. They showed no signs of weakness in going 7-0 in the prelininary round, with each win coming by at least 3 runs. In the finals, though, they were stunned in a rout by the Japanese national team, which had barely qualified for the semifinals.
- Cuba 7, United States 1. LF Miguel Caldes goes 3 for 4 with a homer and 3 RBI as Cuba roughs up Jeff Austin. Pedro Luis Lazo walks 7 but allows only 4 hits in going the distance for the win. Eric Valent leads the US with two doubles.
- Japan 10, Australia 5. Jeff Williams, a future star in Japan, allows 8 hits and 2 homers in 1 1/3 innings as this one is over early. Six Japanese batters get multiple hits with two getting 3 apiece.
- Australia 7, United States 6. Australia gets its first Medal in a worldwide event, setting up their stunning Gold in the 1999 Intercontinental Cup. They trail the USA 5-1 after 6 1/2 but score four in the 7th off of Monty Ward and Casey Fossum. In the 9th, the US scores against Mark Ettles to take the lead 6-5. In the bottom of the inning, though, Australia ties it against Robbie Morrison. Old-timer Phil Dale throws a scoreless frame in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, Clayton Byrne draws a bases-loaded walk from Morrison to win it for the Aussies. 3B Paul Gonzalez goes 3 for 3 with 3 walks and a homer to lead Australia. The US is paced by Jason Tyner (2 for 5, 2 R, 2 RBI) and Bubba Crosby (2 for 6, 2 R, HR, RBI).
- Japan 11, Cuba 2. Yoshinobu Takahashi hits a 3-run homer off Ciro Licea with one out in the first and that's all Japan will need, but they add plenty more. Licea is knocked out in the second and reliever Osmany Romero allows 3 hits and 2 runs while retiring none. Jose Contreras (4 R in 6 1/3 IP) is their best hurler, while Pedro Luis Lazo allows a run in 1/3 of an inning to wrap up the carnage. Koji Uehara (5 1/3 IP) and Hitoshi Miyata (3 2/3 IP) combine to shut down Cuba's powerful offense, each giving up one solo homer - one by Omar Linares and one by Antonio Pacheco. For Japan, six players get multiple hits. Takahashi drives in five and four players score two runs.
- C: Gary White, Australia (.351/.368/.622)
- 1B: Orestes Kindelan, Cuba .344/.417/.938, 6 HR, 10 R, 15 RBI)
- 2B: Yosuke Takasu, Japan (.429/.478/.524)
- SS: Omar Linares, Cuba (.367/.444/.633, 9 RBI)
- 3B: Paul Gonzalez, Australia (.571/.684/1.25, 5 HR, 9 BB, 8 R, 18 RBI)
- OF: Luis Ulacia, Cuba (.343/.400/.514, 10 R, 3 SB)
- OF: Yoshinobu Takahashi, Japan (.419/.513/1.032, 3 3B, 4 HR, 7 BB, 13 R, 16 RBI
- OF: Chris Magruder, USA (.343/.412/.400, 8 R)
- DH: Greg Jelks, Australia (.471/.538/1.088, 6 HR, 10 R, 12 RBI)
- P: Koji Uehara, Japan (2-0, 0.53)
- P: Akio Shimizu, Japan (2-0, 1.64)
- Australia, managed by John Challinor, rode a powerful offense to their Bronze Medal, scoring 80 runs and tying Cuba for the most hitters on the tourney All-Star team. They were 5-4 overall. Among the fine batsmen were SS Mat Buckley (.370/.433/.593), 2B Adam Burton (.382/.423/.647, 12 R, 9 BB), 3B Paul Gonzalez (.571/.684/1.25, 5 HR, 9 BB, 8 R, 18 RBI), DH Greg Jelks (.471/.538/1.088, 6 HR, 10 R, 12 RBI), 1B Andrew Scott (.410/.489/.462, 9 R) and C Gary White (.351/.368/.622). White, Gonzalez and Jelks were chosen as All-Stars and Gonzalez was named MVP. Gonzalez led the event in average, followed by Jelks. Jelks tied for the home run lead, followed by Gonzalez. Gonzalez, Jelks and Scott tied for 2nd in hits (16). Gonzalez led in RBI. On the mound, veteran Phil Dale (1-0, 2.13) led the staff while Shane Tonkin had a 1-0, 2.61 record. Jeff Williams, who had the best pro career of their pitchers, was 1-1 with a 9.72 ERA.
- Cuba was led by Jorge Fuentes, who would lose his job after the Gold Medal game loss. They scored 70 runs and allowed 25, but 11 of those were in the finale. The old reliables were still leading the charge in 1B Orestes Kindelan (.344/.417/.938, 10 R, 15 RBI, a tourney-best 6 homers), SS Omar Linares (normally a third baseman, he hit .367/.444/.633 with 9 RBI and fielded .920), C Juan Manrique (.333/.515/.750, 9 BB, 8 R), DH Antonio Pacheco (.364/.371/.970) and RF Luis Ulacia (.343/.400/.514, 10 R, 3 SB). Gabriel Pierre, replacing Linares at third, hit .414/.485/.862 with 9 RBI. Despite their poor job in the finale, the staff was led by Pedro Luis Lazo (2-0, 1.23, 20 K in 22 IP) and Jose Contreras (2-0, 2.61, 23 K in 20 2/3 IP).
- France, managed by Albert Enriss, avoided last place with a 9-4 win over Spain. They only lost by one run, 5-4, to Italy. France was outscored 64-19, with a team average of .192 and ERA of 9.86. C Jamel Boutagra (.292/.370/.500, 5 R) led the offense. Patrice Briones (0 R in 4 IP) had the lone ERA under 4.50; he was followed by young Maxime Leblanc (4.70) and Samuel Meurant (1-2, 4.80). Robin Roy, on the other hand, had a woeful 0-2, 30.38 record and allowed 30 hits in just 8 innings.
- Italy was managed by Silvano Ambrosioni. Their 6-3 loss to Cuba was as close as anyone got in the round-robin. They finished 2-5, beating only the other European teams. They were outscored 43-18 and hit .195 as a team. CF Roberto de Franceschi (.280/.333/.400) and 1B Alessandro Flisi (.227/.292/.500) provided the most pop. Alessandro Parri (1.80) and Diego Ricci (0.96) led the staff.
- Japan was led to their stunning win after their mediocre round-robin by Kozo Otagaki. They outscored opponents 67-33, neither leading in runs nor runs allowed. The team was led offensively by 1B Yasuyuki Saigo (.406/.500/.594, 8 R, 9 RBI), 2B Yosuke Takasu (.429/.478/.524), RF Yoshinobu Takahashi (.419/.513/1.032, 3 3B, 4 HR, 7 BB, 13 R, 16 RBI) and CF Takayuki Takabayashi (.378/.385/.486, 9 R). The player destined for the best offensive career did little as DH-3B Kosuke Fukudome hit .190/.217/.286. Koji Uehara (2-0, 0.53) led the staff followed by Akio Shimizu (2-0, 1.64). Another future star fizzled as Kenshin Kawakami allowed 6 runs in 7 innings.
- Nicaragua just missed the semifinals, posting the same round-robin record as Gold Medalist Japan and the 4th-place USA. They outscored the opposition 38-33. They were managed by Alejandro Torres. DH Jenrry Roa (.375/.423/.417) and 1B Erasmo Baca (.250/.375/.550) led the offense. Julio Raudez (1-0, 0.00) led the pitchers.
- Spain was managed by Ramiro Toruno. The last-place hosts were outscored 85-13. Carlos Ros (0-1, 5.84) led a weak staff which had a 12.61 ERA overall. The offense hit just .165 with no hitters doing a notable job.
- United States was managed by Bob Milano. They scored 63 runs and allowed 37. DH Jason Tyner (.439/.500/.512, 9 R, 8 RBI), RF Chris Magruder (.343/.412/.400, 8 R), 3B Pat Burrell (.231/.535/.625, 3 HR, 15 BB, 8 R) and 1B Eric Munson (.353/.463/.559, 7 BB, 8 R, 10 RBI) clearly led the offense, with Magruder being the lone All-Star whose team did not win a Medal. Other future major leaguers filled the roster with C Josh Bard (.267/.294/.267), CF Bubba Crosby (.257/.333/.571), SS Adam Everett (.296/.441/.296), SS Brian Roberts (.167/.286/.167) and LF Eric Valent (.267/.342/.433). Adam Pettyjohn (1-0, 1.80) and Monty Ward (1-0, 2.30) led the pitchers. Future big league regulars were Jeff Weaver (0-1, 2.79, 16 H in 9 2/3 IP) and Casey Fossum (1-0, 4.76).