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Titans' Loyd, Kotsay Have Eyes on the Atlanta Games : Baseball: They have continued to play well during the Team USA international series this summer.

August 03, 1995|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Outfielder Mark Kotsay and catcher Brian Loyd helped lead Cal State Fullerton to a College World Series championship in June, and they've had continued success this summer in international play with Team USA.

Both hope to land spots on the team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity so I'd really like to be able to do it, and Mark feels the same way," Loyd said.

Loyd confirmed Wednesday that he has decided to play next season at Fullerton, passing up a pro contract to remain with the Titans and attempt to play in the Olympics. Loyd, who was drafted in the late rounds by Cincinnati, had said the decision might hinge on how well he did with Team USA.

Skip Bertman of Louisiana State, who is coaching Team USA and the Olympic team, won't decide on the roster until after a one-week camp in October in Homestead, Fla.

Team USA completed its 35-game international season Tuesday night with its fourth consecutive victory over Cuba, marking the first time the defending world champions have been swept in international competition.

Kotsay and Loyd played key roles in the series.

Kotsay, chosen as most outstanding player in the College World Series, had two hits and a walk in five at-bats in Tuesday's 6-5 victory and scored the winning run in the ninth inning Saturday on a hit by UCLA's Troy Glaus. Loyd hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth Monday to give Team USA a 5-3 victory in the third game.

The U.S. team finished international play with a 29-6 record and a 14-game winning streak. Its summer season will continue in the National Baseball Congress World Series, which began Tuesday in Wichita. The U.S. team was scheduled to leave today from its home base in Millington, Tenn., and will play an Orlando team Saturday in its first game.

Kotsay and Loyd relish the idea of possibly playing on another national championship team.

"That would really be great, wouldn't it?" Kotsay said by telephone Wednesday from Millington. "Obviously, this is a good team, and we're playing well now."

Kotsay is hitting .330 with 14 runs batted in during the winning streak and is .316 for the season, playing in 31 games and starting 27 of them. That average is fourth among the regulars. First baseman Travis Lee of San Diego State leads the team in hitting (.433) and in runs batted in (34). Kotsay's 22 RBIs are third.

Loyd, who has been rotating with Stanford's A.J. Hinch at catcher, is hitting .245. Hinch is batting .242.

Kotsay has not hit as well as he hoped, but he has been more satisfied lately, hitting safely in eight of his last nine games.

"I think I was tired for a while and didn't hit well during one stretch early on the tour," Kotsay said. "There's wasn't any break at all after the College World Series."

Two days after the Titans won in Omaha, Kotsay was headed for Houston to pick up the Smith Award as college baseball's player of the year. He then went to Millington for the start of the Team USA tryouts.

"I went into two-a-day workouts there, and I think I got worn down early from all the traveling," Kotsay said. "But I think I've learned to deal with the kind of schedule where you get a 4 o'clock wake-up call in the morning, travel all day and then play that night. We had about 25 days on the road in 12 different places."

Kotsay, however, believes he has learned from the experience.

"I think it's helped me a lot," he said. "My only regret is that it came so quickly after the College World Series, and I really didn't have much time to enjoy winning the national championship."

Kotsay has played left field rather than center most of the time.

"Mark's done a fine job for us, just as you'd expect," Bertman said. "I think he felt some added pressure early. But this is an all-star team, and he didn't have to feel as though he had to do more than his share. He's a great player, though, and has a very strong hitting mentality.

"Loyd has done well for us too. He gives you a lot of maturity behind the plate the way he handles pitchers. He has a tough mental game, the same way Kotsay does."

Bertman said all 26 players who have been on the team this summer will be invited to the Olympic team tryouts Oct. 23-31.

"We'll also add some additional people for that camp as well," Bertman said. They will compete for a week in a series of games against Nicaragua before the 20-player Olympic team roster is set.

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