OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The USA Softball Women’s National Team returned to action on Wednesday night at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championships.
Team USA took the field to play Japan for the third time this summer having come up short in both previous matchups. The Americans used four runs in the first and two in the second to build a cushion that Japan could never overcome. In the end, an Amber Freeman (Lakewood, Calif.) grand slam spelled doom for the Japanese and helped Team USA move to 2-0 in the Canadian Open via a 10-3 win.
Four singles and two walks spotted Team USA a 4-0 advantage following the first inning Wednesday night. Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.), Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) and Amber Freeman (Lakewood, Calif.) all singled in their opening at-bats. An RBI fielder’s choice for Taylor Hoagland (Flower Mound, Texas) and a sacrifice fly from Lindsey Ziegenhirt (Elk Grove, Calif.) later in the inning also contributed to the early lead.
Japan responded in the top the second with a walk and two singles to score their first run of the game and later in the at-bat managed to load the bases but a Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) strikeout ended any additional scoring threat.
The Americans added to their lead in the bottom of the second. Moultrie again singled to lead off the at-bat and two walks loaded the bases for Team USA before Freeman blasted her second RBI hit of the game giving Team USA a 5-1 lead. In the next at-bat, Hoagland grounded into a double play but it was enough to score Gibson from third making it USA 6, Japan 1 at the end of the second.
Both teams were held scoreless in the third but Japan got one run back in the fourth to push the score to USA 6, Japan 2. Following a Japanese pitching change, Gibson doubled but USA couldn’t get much else going and the score held through the fourth.
Moore returned to start the fifth inning but a quick single for Ono prompted a pitching change as Head Coach Ken Eriksen subbed Sara Nevins (Pinellas Park, Fla.) into the circle. Another single gave Japan runners in scoring position and a ground ball late in the at-bat brought the innings lead-off batter around to score making it USA 6, Japan 3.
The Americans again struggled from the plate in the bottom of the fifth but things turned around in the sixth. Following a Moultrie strikeout, Chavanne reached on a single. A Japan error in the next at-bat moved Chavanne to second giving Team USA two runners on base. Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) walked to load the bases for Freeman. With her team leading by three, Freeman wasted no time sending the first pitch she saw deep over the fence for a walk-off grand slam that gave Team USA the 10-3 victory of Japan.
Moore gets the win for the Americans having pitched four innings and allowing just three runs on four hits. Freeman finished with six RBI and one run scored on a three-for-four night at the plate.
With the win, Team USA moves to 2-0 in the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship. They will return at 5:30 p.m. CT on Thursday to take on Australia in their third game of the tournament. You can follow all of the action live by visiting www.USASoftball.com.