Bill Kinneberg talks about playing international rival Japan this week.
July 6, 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 are coaching in perhaps one of the biggest international rivalries. What has the atmosphere been like in the first two games of the U.S./Japan series?
A:The July 4 game was sold out and there was a great atmosphere in the series opener. We definitely played well and we ended up winning the first game, 7-2. The Japanese threw two great pitchers in the second game of the series yesterday and beat us, 3-2. Those were two very intense games but we're ready to get back on the field, take care of business and win this series.
Q: How have the players responded to playing the biggest series of the tour thus far?
A: I think the first game of the series was very exciting for them ... playing Japan in front of a sold-out crowd on the Fourth of July. On Thursday, I think we could've played a little better. But, we're back into our routine and ready to resume this series.
Q: Last week, you commented that Chinese Taipei and Japan play different styles of baseball. How has the U.S. National Team done at adapting their game to account for the difference?
A: So far, the games against Chinese Taipei and Japan have been played straight-up. Japan is fast and has great speed. They don't have a lot of power but they certainly know how to capitalize on all situations. We've actually handled their style of play pretty well but they have solid speed, pitching and defense.
Q: Seven players are hitting better than .270 and your pitching staff earned-run average is a sparkling 1.78. With that said how would you rate the team's progress at this time as you start to play some of the top teams in the world?
A: At times, it's fun to just sit back and watch. For instance, last night, Japan's pitchers had a wonderful outing against us. But, as far as we go, we're getting used to the wooden bats and are playing great defense. Our starting pitchers are giving us quality starts and our relievers are coming in and doing what we ask of them. If we can put some runs up on the board and continue to keep our runs under 2.00, we should be able to win more games.
Q: You still have three games left against Japan. What are the keys for the U.S. team to keep the series winning streak alive?
A: We're going to need to execute very well defensively against a pressure offense in order to minimize their chances. We played well, but Japan was able to score on a walk and we can't be giving them fluke chances like that. Japan is not going to score a lot of runs so we need to score runs early and try to take them off of their game. Scoring, getting key hits and playing sound defense are the keys for us this weekend.
Note: The USA National team will play Japan July 6-8. The Japanese have never won a series against Team USA on American soil. Team USA has yet to face what is considered 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 early next week for Kinneberg's thoughts on the Japan Series and the Pan Am Games.