Iyha McMichael's third-inning grand slam home run broke a scoreless tie and the Katy Cruisers (Texas) went on to defeat the California Cruisers 5-0 Sunday in the championship game of the 2001 ASA 18-Under Gold tournament in Marietta, Ga. The win gives the Katy Cruisers back-to-back national championships after winning last year's title at St. Louis, Mo.

"(The pitch) was inside, it was flat," said McMichael of her home run over the left field fence. "I was feeling it at the plate. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone."

"That took the wind out of their sails and that was the climax of the game," Katy Cruisers head coach Jimmy Lyons said of McMichael's hit. "We came here to win this thing and we did what we had to do."

For the second year in a row, pitcher Catherine "Cat" Osterman was dominant in the tournament, posting a 6-0 record with a 0.00 earned run average and 85 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched.

"It starts with Cat, but you’ve got to score runs, play defense," said Lyons. "We just did what we had to do to win."

The win was the second for the Katy Cruisers over the California Cruisers Sunday, posting a 10-inning 1-0 win in the final game of the winner's bracket to hand the California Cruisers their first loss of the tournament.

"(The team) wanted a shot at Cat," said California Cruisers head coach Ron McCard. "They got what they asked for and found out she's a little too much for us to handle. She's a great pitcher. We've never seen movement like that."

The California Cruisers bounced right back after the 10-inning loss, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning on their way to a 3-1 victory over Gordon's Panthers to move into the championship game.

"Sometimes it's hard to bounce back, but the girls responded," said McCard. "We got the two runs and that was all we needed. That might have been the first time we ever beat Gordon's Panthers."

The second-place finish was the best ever for the California Cruisers in the Gold championship.

"We were on our game this weekend," said California Cruisers pitcher Summer Tobias, who joined Osterman and Gordon's Panthers pitcher Alicia Hollowell on the All-America first team. "We played really, really well. We were having fun out there." Tobias went the distance in the 10-inning loss to the Katy Cruisers, then recorded a save in the win against Gordon's Panthers.

Gordon's Panthers took the long road to its third-place finish, winning eight consecutive games in the loser's bracket -- including five wins on Saturday -- to stay alive in the tournament after a second-round loss.

"The old standard line is 'now we're going to get our money's worth'," said Gordon's Panthers head coach Larry Mays, jokingly referring to tournament entry fees. "Saturday and Sunday, it was a matter of stamina. We have 17 players with three pitchers so we were doing well."

Mays added, "This is probably the toughest nationals I've been to and this is my 19th straight year of going to nationals."

Gordon's Panthers opened Sunday's play with a 5-0 win over Colorado Comets, which placed fourth for their best ever finish at the Gold.

"I thought we would do real well," said Colorado Comets head coach Jerry Hall. "This team has been together for four or five years and we played well last year. They expected to do well."

Godon's Panthers outfielder Autumn Champion (18-for-34) and Orange County Batbusters shortstop Stephanie Churchwell (9-for-17) shared the tournament hitting award with a .529 batting average.

Click herehere for complete tournament information, including ASA 18-Under Gold All-America Teams, as well as information on how to view a video of the championship game on the internet.

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