OKLAHOMA CITY — Valerie Arioto fueled a three-run sixth as the 2011 USA Softball Women’s National Team rallied to defeat Australia 5-2 Friday evening at the World Cup of Softball VI in Oklahoma City. The Americans led 2-0 through the fourth but the Aussies fought back, scoring single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game.
Stacy May-Johnson (Reno, Nev.) reached on an error and Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) was intentionally walked with two outs as Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. Arioto then delivered her first hit of the night at a most critical time, a bases clearing triple to right to put Team USA back on top. She then scored on a single to left by Taylor Hoagland (Flower Mound, Texas) to push the score to the eventual final margin.
“My goodness gracious, you’d love to coach this team with two outs because the party is never over,” Head Coach Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla.) said. “We might start it with two but it never ends sometimes and that’s a good thing. That’s the mark of a good team. They don’t worry about the outs. They worry about the little things. They worry about the task at hand. They’re committed to the details. They just don’t pay attention to the details, they commit to the details. That’s all you can ask for from a young team.”
Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) picked up the win in relief. Ricketts threw 1.1 innings, allowing just two hits and one walk before Chelsea Thomas (Pleasantville, Iowa) came in to record the game’s final out with the tying run at the plate.
Team USA jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth as Rhea Taylor (Budford, Ga.) reached on a bunt single and stole second before coming around to score on a single to right center by May-Johnson. Schutte then doubled to left center to score Kaitlyn Cochran (Yorba Linda, Calif.) who had reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning.
Australia cut the lead in half in the top half of the fifth. Verity Long-Droppert singled to third and advanced to second on a passed ball before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Michelle Cox. She then scored on a Clare Warwick single to left to trim the Team USA to 2-1.
The Aussies plated the tying run in the sixth. Back-to-back singles from Chelsea Forkin and Brenda De Blaes gave Australia two runners aboard with just one out. Team USA starting pitcher Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif.) was then lifted in favor of Ricketts. Pinch hitter Jodie Stevenson came through with an RBI single to left to score Forkin but Ricketts struck out Long-Droppert and got pinch hitter Jade Wall to groundout to end the threat.
Ricketts gave way to Thomas with two outs in seventh with two runners on board via a walk and a single. Thomas struck out Forkin to end the game and record her second straight save of the World Cup.
J. Taylor threw 5.1 innings, allowing two runs, just one of them earned, on seven hits and one walk. She struck out seven of the 24 batters she faced. Team USA recorded seven hits off three different Australian pitchers but none more important than Arioto’s two-RBI triple.
“I had little butterflies but it wasn’t pressure,” Arioto said. “It was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to be up at bat and be the one to do it. I just wanted to stay relaxed.”
The Red, White and Blue return to action Saturday with a doubleheader, including the noon Susan G. Komen for the Cure benefit game against Canada. Team USA also faces Japan, which features Olympic Gold Medal winning pitcher Yukiko Ueno, at 8 p.m. Canada holds a record of 2-1 in the tournament while Japan is 2-0 after two extra inning victories.
ESPN and ESPN3.com will broadcast the Canada and United States game on a one-hour tape delay at 1 p.m. CT. ESPN 2 and ESPN3.com will broadcast the Japan and United States game at 8 p.m. CT.
Other action from the World Cup of Softball VI:
Canada 6, Great Britain 4
Within one run of being shut out in the fifth inning due to the run-ahead rule, Great Britain mounted a comeback but it wasn’t enough as Canada defeated Great Britain 6-4 in seven innings in the opening game of Day 2 of the World Cup of Softball.
Canada scored two in the second to take a lead that they would never relinquish with Veteran player Melanie Matthews hitting a single for two RBI. Joey Lye and Hanna Schwarz scored on the play after reaching on a walk and single, respectively. Two more were scored in the third off a two-RBI double by Megan Timpf.
Jocelyn Carter of Canada was the starting pitcher going 3.0 innings with five strikeouts. Jenna Caira came in at the top of the fourth for the win, with six strikeouts while allowing three earned runs. Megan Brown took the loss for Great Britain.
Two more runs Canadian runs went up in the fourth off an RBI double by Matthews and a sac fly by Meagan Baird. Canada needed one run to put the game away in the fifth but were unable to push any more runs across.
One shot in the fifth put Great Britain back in the game when Stacie Townsend hit a three-run home run. Laura Thompson and Steph Pearce scored on the play with Thompson singling and Pearce pinch running for Ali Parkerson who reached on a fielder’s’ choice. The Brits added one in the sixth when Jessica Legendre scored off a fielder’s choice.
Japan 3, Australia 0 (8)
It was a pitching duel as Japanese pitcher Mika Someya and Australian pitcher Justine Smethurst kept runners off the board through seven innings sending the game into extra innings. However when it mattered, Japan came out with a walk off home run in the bottom of the eighth to beat Australia 3-0.
A combined six runners reached with a hit, three apiece through regulation play, although three more Japanese reached after taking advantage of Australian errors. The teams entered the eighth playing with the International Tie Breaker Rule, putting a runner on at second.
Jade Wall was placed on second, advancing to third on a sac bunt. Leigh Godfrey followed with a walk and would steal second to put two runners in scoring position. Wall became the first runner of the game to attempt to head home but was called out with a fielder’s choice play at home. Another out left Australian bases loaded in the eighth.
With Haruka Kageyama on second, Australia intentionally walked Eri Yamada. Both runners advanced off a sac bunt by Misa Okubu. With two outs on the board, Yu Yamamoto put three runs on the board with a walk off home run.
Canada 7, Czech Republic 0 (5)
Behind a no hitter from pitcher Karissa Hovinga, Canada improved to 2-1 at the World Cup of Softball with a 7-0 run-rule performance against the Czech Republic. The Canadians scattered 10 hits throughout the five innings, highlighted by a pair from each Kelsey Haberl, Joey Lye and Melanie Matthews.
Canada took command of the contest with four runs in the bottom of the second including three from Jenny Gilbert’s double. In the third, Haberl doubled to left center to score Jenn Yee. Haberl finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
The Canadians sealed the run-rule victory when a Paige Collings fly ball was dropped in left field, which allowed Lye to score. Lye reached base with a bunt then stole second.
-Courtesy of USA Softball