BEIJING, China (Courtesy USA SoftballUSA Softball)- The journey to the Gold Medal stand continued today as the USA Softball team shut out Chinese Taipei, 7-0 in five innings, to extend their Olympic win streak to 19 straight games. The game saw Olympic newcomers Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.) and Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.) earn their first hits in their Olympic careers while veteran Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) earned her second win of the 2008 Olympic Games with a six strikeout performance. 

From the plate, Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) and Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.) each contributed two hits in the contest. 

Finch made her second start of the Games retiring the first two batters in the first inning via the strikeout before allowing a single to Hsiao-Ting Lo. Bu Chinese Taipei would not put on another runner as Finch issued another ‘K’ to close the inning. 

Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) got the ball rolling in the first inning drawing a walk from starting pitcher Su-Hua Lin. She used her renowned speed to reach second with a stolen base, her first of her Olympic career, in a perfect time for one of the team’s top RBI producer’s in Mendoza. Mendoza did her job with a double to centerfield that was just a foot low of leaving the park to put the team up 1-0. Bustos put a blooper single over the shortstop’s head to push Mendoza to third and advanced to second on a Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.) groundout. However, Mendoza and Bustos were left stranded and the team took its 1-0 lead into the second. 

“A home run at any time feels good, but in the Olympics, it just feels spectacular,” said Mendoza. 

“It’s so contagious with this team. Usually when we score, it’s like the floodgates have opened. You never know who’s going to be the sparkplug.” 

Jung with her fifth hit of the Olympics, roped a single to right center field to get on in the second and with a base hit by Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) reached second. However the team would again leave two runners on when left fielder Hui-Wen Huang made a diving catch to rob Lowe of a single and leave the score at 1-0. 

Finch issued a walk to leadoff batter Chui-Ching Li in the second inning, who would later reach third base with a sac bunt and a groundout. Finch was calm in the circle making the last out with a strikeout. 

“We are confident but not overconfident. We respect our opposition,” said Finch. 

Mendoza wasted no time taking her first pitch of her at bat in the third inning and sending it over the centerfield fence for her third home run in two days. Bustos followed up with a rocketed single to left field and Kretschman followed in close pursuit with a base-hit bunt. Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) waited on four balls for a walk to load the bases. Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.), in her first Olympic appearance, extended the lead to 3-0 with a sac fly while Jung put up two more runs for the team with a double to centerfield. The team tacked on another run when Lowe reached on a fielder’s choice, Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) was out on the play, that plated Jung and gave the team a 6-0 lead. 

The fourth inning saw two new changes in the field with Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) entering in right field and Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.) at second. In the bottom half of the inning, Galindo popped a single over the second baseman’s head for a single, her first of her Olympic career. She would score off rookie Lappin’s single to left field to give the team a comfortable 7-0 lead. 

“Our greatest strength is that overall we are stable, mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Galindo. 

Finch worked five innings of play with a walk, two hits and a hit by pitch to move her record to 2-0 during the Games. 

Through five games played, Bustos has scored eight runs while Mendoza leads the team with seven RBI. Bustos, Jung, Mendoza and Lowe are all tying a team-high six hits while everyone who has been up to bat has earned a hit. Finch and Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) are both 2-0 with Osterman owning a team-high 11.0 innings pitched with 21 strikeouts. 

After five days of Noon games, the team will get a break from the heat with a game time of 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

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