Benson turns in gem as Team USA takes 8-2 win Pitcher strikes out 12 in stopping Korean team

Olympics

July 07, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

BOWIE -- Early yesterday afternoon, Team USA manager Skip Bertman lamented his team's most glaring weakness -- pitching.

He talked about the inexperience of his staff on the international level. He rattled on about his uncertainty over naming a No. 1 pitcher since no one has stepped up.

A few hours later, Kris Benson took the mound and delivered a scintillating performance as Team USA beat the Korean National Team, 8-2, last night before 8,040 at Prince George's Stadium. Team USA (22-3) plays six more exhibition games before beginning Olympic competition July 20 against Nicaragua in Atlanta.

Benson, the top pick overall in this year's major-league draft, allowed two earned runs while striking out 12 and walking none over eight innings in one of his best performances for Team USA. It's the most strikeouts by a Team USA pitcher this year and the most since Kennie Steenstra recorded 13 in 1994.

"He went out there and attacked the plate," Bertman said. "He didn't waste many pitches and that's when he's at his best."

Benson (4-0), a lanky right-hander out of Clemson, consistently worked the inside and outside corners of the plate and rarely fell behind to hitters. He limited Korea to seven hits, five below its total Thursday.

"I didn't go out there looking to strike everyone out," Benson said. "I went out there and looked to hit my spots. The strikeouts then seemed to come in bunches."

Jacque Jones provided the scoring punch with two bases-empty home runs and a two-run double. It was the second multi-homer game for Jones this year and ended his home run drought at 56 at-bats.

Warren Morris, who hit the game-winning home run for Louisiana State in the College World Series, and Travis Lee also homered.

Team USA quickly jumped on Korean starter Kim Sun-Woo, who walked Lee and Chad Allen back-to-back in the first inning to load the bases. The next batter, Jones, lined a two-out double to left-center to score Team USA's first two runs.

In the second inning, Jason Williams singled Morris home from second base to give Team USA a 3-0 lead. Team USA extended its lead to 6-0 when Jones and Morris each powered home runs to right field in the third.

After three innings, Team USA had racked up 10 hits while Korea had managed only two base-runners.

Korea, which is considered a legitimate medal contender, cracked Benson in the fourth.

After striking out the first two batters, Benson gave up a double to Cho In-Sung, who became only the second Korean to advance past first base. Kang Pil-Sun followed with a single to drive in In-Sung.

But Benson regained his form and retired nine of the next 10 batters. He struck out the side in the sixth inning on 13 pitches.

"I've had to deal with a lot of pressure," Benson said of being the No. 1 pick. "I came in tonight with a different attitude. I didn't worry about the results like before. I just wanted to focus on each pitch."

Jones added a shot over the right-center-field fence in the seventh and Lee delivered a soaring blast in the ninth to cap the victory. Team USA has 52 homers, which ties it for third-best in team history.

"Let's just say everyone is seeing the ball real well lately," Jones said. "It's kind of easy when they can't pitch around anyone."

NOTES: Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who never played for Team USA, attended last night's game with his family. . . . Seven of the first 10 selections in the recent major-league draft play for Team USA. Overall, 10 players on Team USA were drafted in the first round. . . . Augie Ojeda, a switch-hitting infielder out of Tennessee, is the only Orioles draft pick on the Olympic team. A 13th-round selection, Ojeda tied his Team USA-bests with two hits and two RBIs against Korea on Friday.

USA .... 213 .. 000 .. 101 .. -- .. 8 .. 15 .. 2

Korea .. 000 .. 100 .. 100 .. -- .. 2 ... 7 .. 1

Benson, Looper (9) and Hinch; Sun-Woo, Jang-Back (2), Min-Han (3), Jung-Jin (7) and In-Sung. 2B: USA--Jones, Green 2, Hinch; K--In-Sung, Hyuk. HR--Jones 2, Morris, Lee. A--8,040.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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