Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg is with the USA Baseball team as it gets ready for the Pan Am Games.
July 3, 2007
University of Utah baseball head coach Bill Kinneberg is traveling with the USA National Baseball team, serving on its coaching staff as the assistant coach. UtahUtes.com continues its summer-long Q&A with coach Kinneberg, documenting his experiences with and against the elite ball players of the world.
Q: You worked on installing your system last week. Did you notice a change in the team's performance against Chinese Taipei this week?
A: The team played well up until the 3-2 loss to Chinese Taipei on Monday. I think that everything is starting to come together for this team. We've got our starting pitchers lined up and everything was moving very well up until we hit a little snag on Monday. However, we won the first three games against Chinese Taipei and I think that if we win four out of five against them, we can call it a good series for us.
Q: How did the team perform in its very first series against international competition?
A: The thing I noticed this week is that we started to get some key hits at important times. Roger Kieschnick (Texas Tech) hit the go-ahead home run in the ninth in our 6-4 win on Saturday, and he also hit a homer in the seventh that sparked a four-run rally on Friday.
We've had a couple leads late in the ball game, but we also gave up some late runs. And, yesterday we just got handcuffed by a good pitching performance. As far as our team goes, we have great starting pitchers. They've been going in to the fifth and sixth innings, not allowing a run. We do need to shore up our bullpen as it gave up some late runs, and other than that, I think we have our lineup set.
Q: You start play against Japan this week (July 4-9). How big of a rivalry has this become on the international scene?
A: This is really big. It has been going on for some 36 years now and it has become a major series for both countries. The key to this rivalry is that none of us have won a series on the other teams' soil. There's going to be a lot of pressure on the team this week and we are looking to continue our tradition against Japan.
Note: The USA National team will play Japan for the rest of the week. The Japanese have never won a series against Team USA on American soil. The Japanese also boast one of the hottest pitching prospects in the world, Yuki Saito. He went 4-0 with a 1.65 ERA during the Japanese college season. Saito's nickname is "The Handerkerchief Prince."
Up next, Team USA will be vying for a medal at the Pan America Games in Brazil on July 14-19. Check back later this week for Kinneberg's take on their series against Japan.