OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Team USA scored seven of its eight runs with two outs and Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) delivered a grand slam as the Americans downed Japan 8-4 Saturday evening at the World Cup of Softball at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex. The U.S. fell earlier in the day, 4-3, to Canada in a heart breaker that saw a comeback in the seventh fall short. 

“I was glad to do it for them because our base runners had been getting on all night,” Arioto said. “I was glad to do it for the team and the pitchers. They’ve been working their butts off all day.” 

Against Japan, Team USA jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off the game with a double to left center and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Rhea Taylor (Buford, Ga.). Moultrie then scored on a second straight sacrifice bunt by Stacy May-Johnson (Reno, Nev.) Kaitlin Cochran (Yorba Linda, Calif.)tripled for the second hit of the inning but was stranded to end the frame. 

Japan evened the score in the bottom of the first when Eri Yamada led off with a walk. Yamada advanced to third on back-to-back groundouts before scoring on a wild pitch. Team Japan took the lead in the second when Yuki Hayashi reached second on a dropped fly ball and came around to score on a pair of groundouts. The unearned run pushed the Japanese ahead 2-1. 

The Americans regained the lead in the top of the fifth thanks to a ground-rule double from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.). R. Taylor reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second before tying the game on a single through the right side by Cochran. Arioto’s ground-rule double plated May-Johnson who had reached on a walk as Team USA took a 3-2 lead through five. 

Team USA exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth inning. Highlighted by a grand slam from Arioto, the Americans plated all five runs with two outs. Moultrie reached on a fielder’s choice and R. Taylor followed with a single before Cochran’s walk loaded the bases with two outs. Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) was then hit by a pitch to score Moultrie and Arioto lifted a fly ball deep to left center to clear the bases and put Team USA ahead 8-2. 

“We’re getting runners on so that is the least of our problems. We’ve gotta get those clutch hits,” Arioto said. “Tonight we had a lot of energy and a lot of fun so it was a good game for us.” 

The Japanese got two of those runs back in the bottom of the sixth off Chelsea Thomas (Pleasantville, Iowa) as Yu Yamamoto walked and Hayashi reached on an error. The pair advanced on a wild pitch and then came around to score on a pinch hit single from Kazuki Watanabe. 

Jordan Taylor entered in the sixth and struck out four straight to end the game. Starter Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) moved to 2-0 at the World Cup, throwing 4.0 innings and allowing two runs, just one of them earned. Ricketts walked two and struck out two. Thomas pitched 1.2 innings before giving way to Taylor for the final 1.1 innings of the contest. 

“It was definitely a big win for us especially since the last time that we played Japan, it wasn’t at all in our favor, and we were coming off a loss against Canada,” Ricketts said. “So it was definitely a test to see how we would respond to that.” 

Arioto drove in five runs on her 2-for-4 night. R. Taylor and Taylor Hoagland (Flower Mound, Texas) also had multiple hit performances, each garnering two hits. Of the six walks issued by Japan, Cochran drew two.

Earlier in the day, Team USA fell behind early against Canada and were unable to come from behind to defeat Canada. The Canadians got to Team USA pitcher Thomas early and held on to win 4-3. Jenna Caira picked up the win for Canada, throwing 5.0 innings. Caira held the Americans to two earned runs on four hits, striking out seven. Jocelyn Cater threw 2.0 innings in relief keeping the Americans at bay until the seventh. She allowed one earned run on two hits and struck out four. 

Canada jumped on the board in the first inning to take an early 2-0 lead. Melanie Matthews led off the game with a double and Victoria Hayward walked to put two runners on with no outs. The pair advanced on a wild pitch and then came around to score on Kaleigh Rafter’s double. After intentionally walking Kelsey Haberl, the Canadians grounded into two fielder’s choices to end the inning. 

Team USA answered in the bottom of the second as Cochran led off the inning with a solo home run to left center. Kaleigh Rafter added to her extra-base hit total in the top of the third with a solo home run to center to extend Canada’s lead to 3-1 

Canada added an unearned run in the fourth. Megan Baird reached on a walk and reached second safely on a fielder’s choice before coming home on a groundout by Hayward. 

Cochran got the run back for Team USA in the bottom half of the frame. She reached on a single and scored on a double to the right center field gap by Arioto to trim the Canadian lead to 4-2. Cater replaced Caira in the top of the fifth. 

The Americans started a rally in the seventh as Moultrie reached on a leadoff single to left center and moved to second on a wild pitch. After Hoagland walked, Caira re-entered the game and promptly struck out two batters. Pinch hitter Ricketts then came through with an RBI single through the right side to score Moultrie and give Team USA life with runners at the corners. May-Johnson then grounded out to end the game and give Canada the 3-1 win. 

Thomas pitched 3.0 innings allowing three earned run on five hits and two walks. Whitney Canion (Aledo, Texas) threw the final 4.0 innings of the game, holding the Canadians to one unearned run on one hit and two walks. 

The U.S. plays its final game in round robin play tomorrow at 4:00 p.m./CT. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 and you can purchase tickets at the gate. 

In Other World Cup Action: 

Czech Republic 2 Great Britain 3

Only eight hits were recorded in the game and it was the last one that made the difference as Great Britain’s Karlene Cooper recorded a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh for her team’s first win of the tournament. Megan Brown earned the win with three strikeouts and allowing two earned runs. 

It was scoreless through the first three innings until Czech scored the first run of the game in the top of the fourth. Leadoff batter Lucie Petraskova singled to lead off the inning, advancing to second on a sac bunt. Lenka Jaklova singled, pushing Petraskova to third. A sac fly plated the run giving the Czech a lead that would not last long. 

Two doubles by Leah English and Morgan Parkerson accounted for the two runs needed for Great Britain to take the lead. Karlene Cooper who reached on a fielder’s choice scored on the English double with English going on to score off Parkerson’s two-base hit. 

Czech scored one in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of several Great Britain miscues. Petraskova reached on a single to lead off the inning, advancing to second on a sac bunt. After a wild pitch by Brown, Petraskova crossed home plate off a fielding error by Kristi Yoshizawa. 

With the game within an out of going into extra innings, Great Britain put it away when Cooper roped a single to right field scoring Laura Thompson who walked to reach. 

-Courtesy of ASA/USA Softball

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