Greek team gets first-ever victory

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.