Notebook : Zaun and U. S. Beat Adversity, Then Cuba

A little adversity went a long way for Gregg Zaun and the U. S. Junior National baseball team.

Only at the time, the two weeks spent at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, seemed like more than a little adversity. The team, composed of 22 players chosen from the 1989 U. S. Olympic Festival, endured a grueling practice and game schedule that, on occasion, caused them to bypass meals to play. Eventually, the team was whittled to 18 players.

"All we did was eat, sleep and play baseball," said Zaun, who was graduated from St. Francis High in June and was named The Times 1989 Glendale-area Player of the Year.

The rough life in Iowa paid off Sunday in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, as the U. S. beat Cuba, 11-3, to win its second consecutive Junior World Championship. This was the first year the U. S. has finished the tournament undefeated.

Zaun, who lives in Glendale and will attend Texas on a baseball scholarship, paced the U. S. team for much of the tournament, hitting home runs against the Netherlands and Brazil. He started every game and caught all but four innings.

"It still hasn't hit me. I'm sitting here and I'm a member of the world championship team," Zaun said Tuesday. "I had no idea of what I was getting into when I left this summer."

Pitched battle: Although Chuck Zerkle, coach of the Glendale Centennial League All-Stars, is ecstatic about his team's second-place finish last week in the Senior League Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich., he's still miffed at tournament officials who declared Cyndee Bennett, Glendale's No. 2 pitcher, ineligible to pitch against eventual champion Naples, Fla.

The game--a 4-2 Glendale loss--decided the championship in the tournament for girls aged 13-15.

According to Zerkle, Bennett, who pitched Friday, was supposed to pitch the second half of a doubleheader Saturday. Because a game that was scheduled to be played during the intermission of the doubleheader was canceled, Glendale's second game was played immediately after the first. Therefore, Bennett did not have the required 24-hour rest period between starts.

Zerkle argued that the situation should be deemed a scheduling miscue and Bennett should be allowed to pitch.

Jennifer Cortez, 14, started instead, scattering five hits--four of which came in the first two innings.

"Overall we're very elated with what we accomplished," Zerkle said. "We lost to a very good team, I have to admit. But I thought we were still a better team. If it was best out of five, I think we'd come out on top every time."

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