BEIJING All hopes for a gold or even silver medal from playing in the baseball finals are gone for Salt Lake Bees players Matt Brown and Kevin Jepsen, as their United States team got clobbered 10-2 by Cuba in Friday night's semifinal.
With Korea beating Japan 6-2 in the other semifinal, Saturday's medal-game match-ups are set, with one-loss Cuba and undefeated Korea vying for the gold and the United States and Japan for the bronze.
The latter two just played Wednesday in the final round of the round-robin tournament, with the U.S. winning 4-2.
"We wanted to win the gold for sure," said Brown, who went 1-for-3 with a double and drove in one of the two U.S. runs with a sacrifice fly. "But they just beat us they outhit us, they outpitched us, everything. We've got to regroup tomorrow and finish strong."
Jepsen wasn't called on to pitch Friday against the Cubans.
After Cuba scored two runs early, the closest the U.S. could get was 2-1 in the top of the fourth and then 3-2 in the top of the fifth.
After Frederich Cepeda's solo home run made it 4-2 in the sixth, Cuba then blew the game open in the eighth with its A game three-run homer by Alexei Bell and Ariel Pestano, sending the U.S. into the consolation medal game.
It may not be a more precious medal thanks to Cuba's power-hitting display, but the U.S. players can still bring home a bronze Beijing souvenir with a final-day win.
It would look nice on the mantel next to the photos the players were able to get with President Bush, who not only greeted Team USA at National Stadium before opening ceremonies but also came for a personal chat with the U.S. baseball team before one of its games, posing with individual players for plenty of photo ops.
"We all got pictures with him," Brown said. "I got my picture with him, so that's cool."
After the tournament, Jepsen and Brown will be headed back to the Bees in time for their playoff run. And they'll be bringing back plenty of stories for their Salt Lake teammates."We'll tell them about the Olympic Village, what that's like, the USA House," said Brown, "and walking in with the NBA guys in the opening ceremonies."