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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | BASEBALL

Lee of U.S. Completes Home Run Derby

July 31, 1996|Times Wire Services

Travis Lee was embarrassed.

Ninety-nine homers had been sprayed to every nook and cranny of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and Lee, the U.S. cleanup hitter and its leading homer-hitter in exhibition games before the Olympics, had been shut out.

"Everyone else was hitting homers left and right and I was saying, 'What's going on?' " Lee said.

He finally got his first--and the 100th of the tournament--in the third inning of a 17-1 rout over the Netherlands that sent the U.S. into medal play with every bat present and accounted for. Every U.S. regular has hit at least one homer.

"When I hit that home run, it felt great to get that one off my back so I could join the rest of the team in home run derby," Lee said.

The American collegians hit four more homers to keep their momentum heading into the medal round, which begins Thursday. The United States (6-1) finished second in the round-robin and will play Japan, which defeated Italy, 12-1, to clinch the other berth. Unbeaten Cuba will play Nicaragua.

The two winners play for the gold on Friday.

"Everybody in the lineup is contributing, and that's important going into the medals round," Coach Skip Bertman said. "It's big that Travis should get so hot late, though it's no surprise. Travis is a great hitter."

Lee, a first baseman who was the first position player taken in the major-league draft last month, went three for 17 with two RBIs in the first five games.

In his last two games, he is seven for nine with a homer and four RBIs.

"He was the second pick [overall] in the draft and he's probably the best hitter on this team," right fielder Chad Allen said. "He just proved it the last two games."

Makoto Imaoka hit a two-run homer for Japan in its victory over Italy (2-5), which could have advanced into the medal round with a victory, but which managed only six hits off three Japanese pitchers.

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