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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | BASEBALL

Cuba's Kindelan Hits Record Seventh Homer

July 30, 1996

They call Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium the Launching Pad for a reason, and Cuba's Orestes Kindelan showed why on Monday.

Kindelan hit his Olympic tournament-record seventh homer for Cuba, which beat Nicaragua, 8-7. Cuba (7-0) will be top-seeded in medals-round play that starts Thursday, with the United States second. Nicaragua (4-3) has qualified, and the final berth is still open.

The Cubans set numerous offensive records in the round-robin tournament, led by Kindelan, the designated hitter who drove in a record 13 runs.

Cuba hit six more homers Monday to finish the round robin with 29, also a record. Cuba and Japan hit 12 each in the Barcelona Games for the previous mark.

Japan also used the long ball to stay in contention for a medal-round berth, getting homers from Yoshitomo Tani and Nobuhiko Matsunaka in a 14-4 victory over South Korea.

Japan (3-3) can clinch a playoff spot by beating Italy today.

Tani's two-run homer put Japan ahead to stay in the third inning. Tadahito Iguchi tripled home two runs to start a four-run fifth inning that put Japan in control, 10-1.

South Korea (1-5) cut it to 10-4 in the sixth, when Choi In-sung hit a two-run homer.

Italy (2-4) got a three-run homer from Marco Urbani in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Paul Nanne, a reliever for the Netherlands, induced a game-ending double play to preserve an 8-7 victory.

In all, with two days left in the round-robin tournament, the teams had combined for 83 homers--nearly double the record of 45 at the Barcelona Games.

And it's not just the number, but the distance that has made fans gasp. Three balls have been hit into the upper deck and another deflected off the facing.

That's what happens when aluminum bats meet the stadium known as "The Launching Pad."

"The fact is that we're playing with aluminum bats in a stadium where the ball really does jump. I promise you, it jumps," said Nicaragua Coach Darin Van Tassell, who grew up in Georgia.

"There have been a lot of weak home runs hit in this tournament," Australian Coach Robert Derksen said. "The technology has taken over. You see lighter bats and more powerful bats. Those are two very effective ingredients in hitting."

Pitching is also an ingredient. Most teams' pitching has suffered, but the Nicaraguans have thrown the two shutouts of the tournament--the only two--and had the only team to hold the United States without a homer.

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