Well, that was embarrassing. With a chance to redeem cultural elitism in the sport its country created, the U.S. team at the World Baseball Classic threw away its chances like this Derek Jeter error below, losing to Japan in a 9-4 blowout in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Sunday.
That makes the U.S. 0-for-2 in these quadrennial shindigs, while the Japanese get a shot at 2-for-2 on Monday night, in the team’s fifth faceoff with Korea in this World Baseball Classic alone.
Of course, that’s hardly the story here. Instead, this is a tale of how A) Roy Oswalt couldn’t hold a lead, B) the U.S. couldn’t mount a rally off of Daisuke Matsuzaka and C) Jeter made a horribly costly error in the bottom of the eighth, just as the U.S. seemed to be getting back in the game.
In fairness, the Oswalt-Matsuzaka matchup played out much the way it should have, just perhaps in a slightly adjusted time frame. The Americans got on the board in the first inning, but by the time he was done, it was Matsuzaka who had held the U.S. in check, while Oswalt had folded repeatedly to Japan’s litany of slap hitters.
As for Jeter, in the end his error didn’t affect the decision in the game. But his error, a badly off target throw on a jumping play as he wheeled to his right, gave the Japanese a crushing three-run lead — which soon ballooned to the final five-run margin — when the U.S. could have gotten out of the inning with the heart of the team’s order coming up in the top of the ninth.
It all goes to prove that nothing is certain in baseball anymore, especially in the World Baseball Classic, as much as it really may be a money-grubbing, made-for-TV event. Then again, we already knew that, thanks to our friends in the Netherlands.
Of course, the Americans weren’t the only superpower to go down on Sunday night. Just ask the Lady Vols of Tennessee.
That’s right, the only women’s basketball program powerful enough to copyright their team name as its own brand was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. In fact, before Ball State stunned record-breaker Pat Summit’s team in Bowling Green, Ky. last night, the Vols had never lost in either of the first two rounds. That made them a whopping 42-0.
Not anymore. Of course, Summit was as much a realist about the loss as she is about anything else, shining a pretty stark light on her team’s shortcomings.
“I thought we were tentative, maybe uptight,” Summitt said. “But you have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the Ball State basketball team. They had a lot more toughness. They beat us to loose balls. They made shots.”
Evidently that still makes all the difference between wins and losses, whether you’re Pat Summit or a nobody like Ball State Coach Kelly Packard, who has a whopping 26 career wins.
There had to be some winners on Sunday, and there were plenty in men’s college basketball. But of all the teams going where the Tennessee women (and men, for that matter) fear to tread, none can truly be called “Cinderella.”
Sure, there’s still a 12-seed out there in Arizona. But to call the Wildcats a Cinderella team is as unfair as it would have been to call Wisconsin a slipper-wearing team. In fact, ESPN’s Andy Katz makes a pretty compelling case that this season’s Sweet 16 is about as chalk-filled in any of recent memory. Sure, it makes for some pretty strong matchups, but that doesn’t help us glorify the next Cinderella. If only Siena had held on …
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