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3 Wildcats make USA Baseball team

By Chris Jackson and Bryan Rosenbaum
Arizona Summer Wildcat
June 16, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

Three players from the Arizona baseball team not only made the USA national team's roster yesterday, they made it as starters.

Keoni DeRenne will be the team's starting shortstop, while Shelley Duncan will start in right field and Ben Diggins will work either as a starting pitcher, closer or designated hitter.

Assistant coach Jerry Kindall, the former UA head coach, had the job of selecting the final 22 while head coach Mark Johnson was with his Texas A&M Aggies at the College World Series.

"Ben serves USA Baseball as a very important pitcher on our staff," Kindall said. "He throws hard. He could be a starter, he could be a closer. He could break open the game with one swing."

Diggins appeared in the first game of the national team's current series with Mexico Saturday, an 18-11 loss, but it wasn't his fault. He gave up one run on one hit and over 2 2/3 innings.

"This has been a great experience meeting and playing against some of the top freshmen and sophomores in the country," Diggins said. "Getting the chance to represent your country, even if it's only for two or three games, is really something to remember."

UA pitching coach Bill Kinneberg is also the national team's pitching coach, a plus for Diggins.

"No, not really," said Kinneberg in regards to whether or not Diggins felt more comfortable with him being there. "He knows what he has to do and so far he's done it."

Duncan continued to showcase his powerful swing after hitting a freshman record 20 home runs for Arizona this season.

The sophomore-to-be tripled and scored in Sunday's 3-1 win, and then hit a two-run homer in Monday night's 18-2 rout of Mexico.

"Shelley, with all his home runs this spring, alerted us that here's a power hitter," Kindall said. "He's shown us he has a real passion for the game. He's a real hustler."

Duncan was optimistic about his chances and hoped he would get the opportunity to represent his country on a full-time basis.

"The best thing to do is go out there and relax," he said. "Just to play one game with the USA jersey on is a dream come true for me."

DeRenne, who started at second base for the USA team last summer, won a starting job again despite being sidelined for the first two games against Mexico with a stomach virus.

"With my experience in international baseball, hopefully I can bring some kind of leadership and example to the team," DeRenne said. "I still have to work hard here because nothing is going to be given to me."

Kindall said DeRenne's qualities extend beyond his bat and glove.

"He was one of the leaders on this team last year as a freshman, and with a year to mature he'll be even better," Kindall said.

Duncan, Diggins and DeRenne will hit the road tomorrow as the USA team prepares for a trip to Japan. The team returns to Tucson July 4 to face Korea.