BEIJING, China – (Courtesy USA Softball) The USA Softball team opened the 2008 Olympic Games making a statement breaking an Olympic record for most runs scored in a game by a single team and tying an Olympic record with three homeruns. The three-time defending Gold Medal winning team captured an 11-0 victory in five innings against Olympic rookie team Venezuela. Breaking its own previous record which was 10 runs from the 2004 Olympic Games, the U.S. used 11 hits including three home runs and a base clearing double to improve to a 15-game win Olympic win streak dating back to 2000.
“Today we were really excited to get on the field,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “I was pleased with our outing and at bats and where we are right now. Jennie gave a really strong pitching performance from the circle and things were good. But in the Olympics there is no time to celebrate…. On to the next game.”
With a combined no-hit performance from Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) and Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.), rookie Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) led the U.S. effort with a 3-for-4 debut with one RBI coming on a solo inside the park home run.
“Well I was happy that I got a good pitch,” said Lowe when asked her thoughts on the home run. “Then once I rounded first base I saw coaching doing his wave thing and knew I was going to go all the way.”
Along with Lowe, designated player Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) was 2-for-3 with one RBI while third base rookie Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) was also 2-for-3 with a team leading three RBI.
Winning pitcher Finch tallied four hitless innings recording five strikeouts and allowed two walks.
The U.S. put its first runner of the Olympic Games into scoring position early. Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) led the visiting team with a lead off walk before Lowe recorded her first hit of her Olympic career with a chopping shot to left field. With the speed of Watley now at second base, the U.S. threatened to score with its RBI leaders on deck. Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) recorded a flyout advancing Watley to third base but then back-to-back flyouts left the runners stranded.
Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) was quickly on base in the top of the second inning after the ball brushed her right thigh placing her on first with a hit by pitch. Two-time Olympian Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) then made her first at bat of the 2008 Games a memorable one with a base hit to right field pushing Duran to third base. Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.) drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice flyout to right field plating Duran for the 1-0 lead.
The U.S. then padded their lead with power from the leadoff hitters. Watley connected on her first-ever Olympic home run with a two-run shot to left center before Lowe drove the ball just over the Venezuelan left fielder’s head and legged out an inside-the-park home run for the 4-0 advantage.
The long ball struck once again in the top of the third inning when Olympic record holder for home runs with five, Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) belted the ball out to left field within three seconds with a straight shot over the 220 fences. Two-time Olympian Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Springs, Fla.) was then hit by a pitch before Duran recorded her first ever Olympic base hit with a drive to left field. Nuveman then looked to knock in some RBI, but grounded into a double play with Duran out on the play. The U.S. then scored its sixth run on an error from the Venezuelan left fielder who dropped a routine pop up from Jung that plated Kretschman.
A pitching change from Venezuela bringing in Marianella Castellanos didn’t phase the U.S. bats as they put five more runs on the board in the top of the fourth inning for an 11-0 eventual win. Lowe started the inning with a single to right field before a Mendoza hit-by-pitch put two runners on with no outs. Bustos then drove in her second hit of the game to load the bases for the Red, White and Blue. Castellanos continued to struggle issuing a walk to Kretschman that allowed Lowe to score. Four-time Olympian Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) then entered her fourth and final Olympic Games as a pinch runner for Kretschman. Duran then belted a base clearing double, the first of the game, scoring three runs before Jung roped in an RBI single for the fifth run of the game.
Yaicey Sojo was the only Venezuela player to reach base earning two walks off of Finch.
Up next the U.S. will battle a familiar foe in 2004 Olympic silver medal winning team Australia. The U.S. is 20-7 overall against Australia in major international competition (Olympics, World Championships, and World Cups). Game time is Noon on Wednesday, August 13.