BEIJING, China (Courtesy USA Softball)--- The first night game of the 2008 Olympic Games proved to be a special one for the USA Softball team as winning pitcher Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) tossed a perfect five inning 8-0 victory over the Netherlands and the U.S. set the Olympic record for overall home runs in the Games with 12. A 6’3” south paw, Abbott recorded the first-ever perfect game by a U.S. pitcher in an Olympic Games, recording nine strikeouts in the 15 batters she faced.
“I am really excited,” smiled Abbott. “I kind of had a goal to come out and throw one when I was named to the team. I was glad I was able to go out and make some good pitches work and I had some great plays made today by the defense with Lovie (Jung), Tairia (Flowers) and obviously Bergy’s (Laura Berg) catch in right field. You can’t really ask for much more than that and I was just trying to take it one pitch at a time and stay focused for each one.”
The U.S. saw three long balls clear the fences for another Olympic record of most runs hit in an Olympic Games by a team. Currently, the U.S. has 12 total after three came tonight from Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.), and Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.). The previous record was held by Japan and Australia with 11 total in the 1996 Olympic Games.
With the win, the U.S. is 6-0 with its final round robin match up against China on Monday at Noon/Local. The U.S. also now knows it will be the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs on Wednesday, August 20 and will match up with No. 2 seed Japan at 9:30 a.m. at Fengtai Field. The No. 3 seed is Australia and the No. 4 seed is TBD on Monday, August 18. The playoffs follow the ISF page system with the gold medal game on Thursday, August 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) led the game on a positive start with a slap base hit through the left side continuing her hit streak to six consecutive games. Watley was later out at second with a fielder’s choice from Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.). Mendoza then took a pitch off the side of her body from Venezuela starting pitcher Rebecca Soumer sending her 60 feet to first base forcing Lowe to second. Hitting .500, Bustos connected on her fifth RBI of the Olympics with a line drive through the left side sending Lowe across home plate for the 1-0 U.S. advantage.
In the bottom of the second inning, with one out, Flowers put her home run mark on the Games with a towering shot to left center for a solo home run and her first ever of the Olympic Games. With a 2-0 lead, right fielder Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) sent a blooper to left field and earned a hit and advanced to second on a fielding error from Venezuela’s Marloes Fellinger. Berg later scored her second run of the Olympics when the hot hitting Watley sent her second hit of the game over the third baseman’s head for the RBI and 3-0 lead. Lowe then repeated the first inning with a fielder’s choice resulting in Watley out at second base before Mendoza roped what looked like a home run to centerfield but was caught and ended the inning.
Continuing to lead from the plate, Bustos drove in her fourth home run of the Olympics with the second pitch of her at bat to lead the bottom of the third inning. A line drive just over the 220 fences in centerfield, the home run tied the Olympic record for most home runs recorded by a team with 11. Australia and Japan both had 11 during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. With a solid 4-0 advantage, Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.) and Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) both reached on base hits before the Netherlands brought in Judith van Kampen from the bullpen. The new pitcher didn’t faze Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.), who extended her hit streak to all six games of the Olympics, with an RBI base hit through the middle scoring Kretschman for the 5-0 lead. Another run was added in when Berg singled to right field plating Nuveman who marked the 6-0 lead.
As Abbott continued her perfection from the circle, the U.S. closed in on the run-ahead rule scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Mendoza roped her fourth home run of the Games to centerfield to kick start the inning while Bustos followed up with an infield single to the shortstop. A wild pitch from van Kampen moved Bustos to second before rookie Vicky Galindo ( Union City, Calif.) inked her first ever Olympic RBI with a single to left field pushing Bustos across home plate for the eventual 8-0 win.