SENDAI, Japan — The USA National team responded to Japan on Wednesday evening with timely hitting and strong pitching to earn a 3-0 victory.
After suffering back-to-back losses to Japan, the U.S. took the first of a three-game series. The United States backed winning pitcher Alicia Hollowell with a six-hit offensive burst. Hollowell completed five innings and allowed just one hit in her first national team victory. Jamie Southern retired six straight Japan hitters in relief to close the game and earn the save.
“I thought Alicia did a nice job of taking the game one pitch at a time,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “The thing that is amazing about this game is that tonight we finally got the key hits when we needed to. It was big to get that first run and get ahead. And then to add two runs in the seventh was great for us.”
“I felt like I came out and took the game at a good pace,” said Hollowell. “After the first couple of innings, I really calmed down a little bit and took a few more deep breaths. There was a little bit of pressure to get things going, but after a while I got into my rhythm.”
Breaking its 17-inning scoreless streak, the U.S. offense came to life in the top of the third inning when first baseman Jennie Finch connected on a line drive base hit to left center in her first U.S. at-bat of the summer. Following a walk to Amanda Freed, Caitlin Lowe moved Finch to third with a one-out fielder’s choice. Vicky Galindo gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead on her base hit that scored Finch.
Japan had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after Eri Yamada singled down the right field line and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Sachiko Ito. Hollowell worked out of the jam as she got a fly ball to left to end the threat.
The U.S. put across two insurance runs in the top of the seventh after loading the bases with no outs. A lead-off walk to Jenny Topping, combined with singles from Kelly Kretschman and Jaime Clark gave Tairia Flowers a perfect RBI situation. Taking advantage, Flowers drove a single through the right side, scoring pinch runner Laura Berg. Finch then lifted a sacrifice fly that gave the U.S. the eventual 3-0 victory.
Southern retired all six batters she faced with three strikeouts, while Hollowell tallied six strikeouts in her first start of the week.
Japan saw only one other runner reach scoring position, while six U.S. batters contributed one hit a piece.