OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Each post game talk for the USA Softball Women’s National Team ends the same way. When Coach Jay Miller (Starkville, Miss.) asks the women who they play for, the team responds “USA” in unison. But Saturday at the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flags in Oklahoma City, they were playing for much more than their country, they were 

“It’s near and dear to my heart because my mom is a breast cancer survivor and my aunt was recently diagnosed with cancer as well,” said Kaitlin Cochran (Yorba Linda, Calif.). “To be able to play in the pink for them was such an honor. We all know so many people that are affected by this cancer so I feel so blessed that were able to represent the pink for the Race for the Cure, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and everyone. I’m very, very blessed and I’m glad we were able to raise some money for them.”

Wearing pink uniforms that will be auctioned off later this year to benefit the Central Oklahoma affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Team USA shutout Japan for the fourth consecutive time this season. They beat the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalists 8-0 in six innings at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Stadium. Team USA is now 4-0 in the tournament while Japan 2-2.

Cochran was instrumental in the team win, hitting a home run for the third consecutive day. In the bottom of the sixth, she homered to right center, bringing in Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), who singled down the right field line. The two runs were the final push Team USA needed to run rule Japan.

A Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) single in the first inning scored the first run for the Red, White and Blue. In the second, Team USA took a 4-0 lead  with a Mendoza RBI double to right center that scored Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.), Chelsea Bramlett (Cordova, Tenn.) and Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.).

After Bramlett was hit by a pitch to lead off the fourth, and then stole second, a Watley singled through the right side to score Bramlett. Ashley Charters (Beaverton, Ore.) grounded out but Mendoza then hit her second double of the game to bring in Watley, making it 6-0.

“Playing in pink means a lot to the USA family,” said Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.), who allowed one hit while striking out nine for her second win of the World Cup. “In the past and now, there has been a lot of breast cancer survivors. Kelly Kretschman’s mom, Natasha Watley’s mom, Katie Cochran’s mom. It’s been in the families. It’s something that is realistic.”

Before both USA games Saturday, breast cancer survivors accompanied athletes when the line ups were announced. Watley and Cochran were both escorted by their mothers.

“I was talking to one of the survivors today and she actually told me that she found her lump by self-examination when she was 25,” Abbott said. “It turns out almost all the ladies found their lumps when they were 25, 26, 27 but mammograms are not required or really done until after 30. What a surprising statistic. That is the mean of the ages on this team so it home. Breast cancer affects a lot of women and we don’t want it to.”

USA Softball has raised over $37,000 with the two previous pink games.

In other action, the Women’s National Team also beat the USA Softball Women’s Futures National Team 1-0 while the Futures were in pink uniforms. The Futures also lost the night cap, losing to World Bronze Medalist Canada 5-4. Both teams are now 1-3 in the tournament.

In the morning game, Team USA rookie Eileen Canney (Paradise Valley, Calif.) made her first appearance at the Hall of Fame Stadium since leading Northwestern to the Women’s College World Series in 2007, recording her first win at the World Cup by shutting out Futures.

 “It’s been a great week,” said Canney, who became engaged earlier this week. “It’s nice because my friends and family are here supporting us so that makes it even better. I love Oklahoma City and have some really good memories here.”

Canney allowed two hits, one to Megan Langenfeld (Bakersfield, Calif.), a Top 3 Finalist for the 2010 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, and one to Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.). She also struck out 14 batters but hesitates to say she is settling into her role with Team USA.

“I don’t think I will ever get totally comfortable here,” said Canney, who went 2-0 last month at Worlds in Caracas, Venezuela. “It’s something I have been dreaming about and its exceeding everything I thought it would be.”

Canney also pitched to the Futures twice last month in the four game USA Softball exhibition series in Ohio.

“I was a little more nervous because they know a lot about me just like I know how to pitch to them. They are a great team and great coaches. Kate (Drohan) coached me so she knows how I pitch and I am sure has a  good scouting report,” Canney said. “(Ashley) Holcombe called a great game and she is a great catcher. We worked really well together. It was an amazing feeling and a total team win. It’s easy to relax when you have such great players behind you. Mendoza’s play in the outfield, oh my gosh, and then that great throw to second. It’s just great defense.” 

Of the three USA National Team hits, only one would amount to a run as Alissa Haber (Newark, Calif.) led off the third inning with a home run. The only two hits for the USA were off the bats of Ashley Hansen (Chandler, Ariz.) and Cochran. 

Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif.) took the loss for the Futures but was stingy in the circle, only allowing the hottest offense in the World three hits. She struck out four batters and allowed one earned run.

In the nightcap, Futures was dealt a heartbreaking 5-4 loss in the seventh inning when Canada scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to overcome a Futures team that had held the lead through the first six innings. 

Futures took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning off a two-run home run by Shawna Wright (Lancaster, Calif.). An RBI single by Langenfeld plated Lauren Schutzler (Monterey, Calif.) in the third and a RBI single by Molly Johnson (Tucson, Ariz.) in the fourth gave Futures a 4-0 lead on Canada. 

Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) made her second start of the tournament allowing only three hits through five innings. But Canada cut the lead to 4-2 in the sixth when a Jen Yee single and Sheena Lawrick single accounted for two RBI. 

Within three outs of their second win of the day, and their second win as a team, the Futures allowed three runs to Canada.  A sacrifice fly out cut the Futures lead to one but the damage was done when Yee, a Top 3 Finalist for the 2010 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, doubled to left centerfield for two runs scored. 

Nelson worked 6.1 innings for the Futures, allowing four earned runs. She recorded one strikeout while issuing three walks. 

The Futures will take on Japan Sunday at noon before facing the Women’s National Team at 7  p.m. Both games, along with the Japan and Canada game at 9 p.m., will be webcast at http://asa.video4ever.net/index.htm. At 4 p.m., USA takes on Canada in a game that will be aired live on ESPN2 and at http://www.espn3.com.

The Championship Game is Monday at 8 p.m.

 - Courtesy USA Softball


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