Greek team gets first-ever victory

Updated: August 21, 2004, 5:53 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece won for the first time ever in Olympic baseball Saturday night, getting 14 hits from its Greek-American lineup to beat Italy 12-7 in a showdown between the two weakest teams in the eight-nation tournament.

Eligible for the baseball competition only through its role as host, Greece decided that a team of its homegrown players would be overwhelmed and instead assembled a squad of college and minor-league players recruited in the United States and Canada with help from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Shortstop Clay Bellinger, center fielder Cory Harris and designated hitter Nicholas Markakis hit home runs, and first baseman Georgios Kottaras had three hits as the Greeks rallied from a 5-0 deficit, scoring at least two runs in the fourth through seventh innings.

Pangiotis Sikaras was the winning pitcher, yielding three hits but no runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief. Reliever William Lucena took the loss for Italy, which got three hits, including a home run, from first baseman Jairo Ramos Gizzi. The Italians left 12 men on base.

A crowd of 6,773 was on hand -- the largest so far at a tournament marked by many sparsely attended games. Hometown fans have cheered enthusiastically for Greece, but -- with no big-time league of their own to follow -- clearly lacked an understanding of the sport's finer points.

Italy and Greece are both now 1-5 in the tournament, with one game remaining, and -- like the Netherlands and Taiwan -- have no chance to advance to the medal round.

Japan, playing stars from its major league, and Cuba have been the top teams so far, with 5-1 records. Australia (4-2) beat the Netherlands on Saturday 22-2 and is assured, along with Canada (4-2), of also advancing to the semifinals.

Also Saturday, Cuba handed Canada its second consecutive loss, 5-2.

The United States was eliminated in regional competition and didn't qualify for the Olympics.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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