BEIJING, China — The USA Softball Women’s National Team has jumped out to a 2-0 start at the XI ISF Women’s World Championship in Beijing, China.
The U.S. opened the tournament with a 6-1 win over Italy before knocking off DPR Korea 7-0 at the site of the 2008 Olympic Games.
United States 7, DPR Korea 0
The Red, White and Blue received a second straight solid outing from the top half of the order to knock off Korea in the first match-up ever between the two teams.
Caitlin Lowe reached on a walk to lead off the game and moved to second when Natasha Watley singled to left field. A walk to Jessica Mendoza loaded the bases for U.S. slugger Crystl Bustos, who cleared the bases with a double to left center to give the U.S. an early 3-0 lead. A sacrifice fly by Jenny Topping plated Bustos for the final run of the inning and a 4-0 advantage.
“It was great to see the team do so well”, said Bustos. “We have never played Korea but they were a good team. It was good to see the team doing better all around.”
The U.S. offense went into a lull in the next two innings, producing only one base runner, but turned things around in the fourth inning. With one out Vicky Galindo was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a groundout by Laura Berg. With the top of the lineup coming to the plate, the USA proceeded to put together a two out rally that would net three more runs.
Lowe singled up the middle to move Galindo to third, and she advanced to second when the shortstop made an errant throw to third that allowed Galindo to score. A passed ball moved Lowe to third, and a single up the middle by Watley plated her for the second run of the inning. Mendoza moved Watley to second when she was hit by a pitch and Bustos came through once again with a single to right field to score the final run of the game.
Jennie Finch was dominate in the circle, allowing only two hits while fanning seven in five innings of work.
“It was great to be out on the mound. To see the offense explode is always great to see,” said Finch. “We just have to take it one game at a time.”
Bustos was the offensive catalyst, going 2-for-3 with a double and four RBI while Watley collected two hits and an RBI.
“It was a very good game. It was very good to see Jennie have a good performance and Crystal really got it started for us”, said head coach Mike Candrea of his team’s performance. “We ended strong and we hope to get better everyday. That is what we want to do.”
United States 6, Italy 1
Cat Osterman picked up her first career win in a World Championship after going the distance and allowing only one unearned run.
“We were really ready to get started after being here for a few days so it was good to come out and play” said Head Coach Mike Candrea. “Cat threw a great game and our offense was able to put some runs on the board so now we just have to go back, get some sleep and come back ready to play tomorrow.”
The speed at the top of the USA lineup paid off in the first inning as Lowe led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Watley and scored on a single by Mendoza to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
After being shutout in the second inning, it was the top of the lineup that got things started again for the USA in the third inning. The speed of Watley and Mendoza forced Italy’s defense to falter as both reached on fielding errors. With runners on the corners, Italy’s Kaithyin Gentile gunned down the speedy Mendoza as she attempted to steal second to record the first out of the inning.
With one out Bustos reached on a fielder’s choice when Italy tried to pick-off Watley at third. An intentional walk to Stacey Nuveman that loaded the bases did not pay off for Italy as Andrea Duran walked as well to score Watley. Finch followed with a double that looked as if it would score two, but Nuveman was thrown out at home.
The USA took advantage of a pitching change and added two insurance runs in the fourth when Breana DeSanta came in to relieve starter Leslie Malerich. Mendoza laced an RBI single to right field to score Lowe, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Bustos singled to left field to score Watley after she reached on an error.
Back-to-back errors by the U.S. defense provided Italy with its only run of the game. Veronica Fontana reached to lead off the inning when Finch dropped the throw from second baseman Lovie Jung. After swiping second base, Fontana scored when Watley, attempting to throw her out on a fielder’s choice at third, hit her in the helmet projecting the ball into left field.
The U.S. tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth when Duran singled in Mendoza after she reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning.
Osterman was solid in her first World Championship appearance, allowing only two hits while striking out 14. The 14 strikeouts are the most by a U.S. pitcher in World Championship competition since July 30, 1998, when Lisa Fernandez fanned 14 against Australia in the championship game.
“It felt really good to get the first game under our belts today,” said Osterman. “It was good to be on the mound for the first game and to have our offense put runs up early and often.”
Malerich took the loss for Italy after allowing three runs in three innings of work. DeSanta, who relieved Malerich in the fourth inning, also allowed three runs in three innings.
Following an offensive on-slaught at the II World Cup of Softball, Mendoza continued her dominance at the plate going 3-for-4 with two RBI against Italy.
The USA will face Canada, the bronze medalist at the II World Cup of Softball, on Tuesday, August 29 at 2 a.m. CT.
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