OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.---Firing on all cylinders, the USA Softball Women’s national team advanced to the championship game of the first ever World Cup of Softball by defeating 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Japan 7-0 in a five-inning run rule on Saturday evening . Completing pool play with a 3-1 record, Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.), who leads the U.S. in hitting with a .625 average, connected on a grand slam to lead the Red, White and Blue to its second run rule victory of the day.
“The pitch was right there in the middle of the plate,” said Galindo. “I just picked my foot up and hit it. This is all just really exciting.”
Winning pitcher Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) went the distance for Team USA totaling five innings allowing two hits with eight strikeouts.
“Jenny looked strong tonight. She threw the ball well and at this time of the year that was a pretty darn good performance.”
Connecting on 11 hits in the contest, 22 for the day, the USA saw four players with multiple hit performances while Galindo and catcher Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) each slammed a home run apiece.
The U.S. determined the outcome early by jumping ahead with a 5-0 lead in the first. A lead off single from Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) followed by a Japanese fielding error put two runners aboard for Nuveman. Her first of two hits, the two-time gold medalist, then singled through the left side scoring Watley for the lead.
Working on a two-out rally, the U.S. then loaded the bases after Kellie Wilkerson (Jacksonville, Fla.) drove a base hit to centerfield and Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.) earned a walk. The blast then from 5’4” Galindo over the centerfield fences put the game at 5-0 after just the first inning of play.
The U.S. added its sixth run in the second inning off Nuveman’s second home run of the day. She is hitting .600 in the tournament going 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI.
Pushing the lead to 7-0, the U.S. contributed an additional run in the third inning thanks to a Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Springs, Fla.) RBI base hit to right field plating Galindo who singled earlier in the inning.
The arm of Jennie Finch shut down the Japanese offense totaling just two hits in the contest. Eri Yamada sent one to centerfield in the first while Motoko Fujimoto saw an infield hit in the fifth.
“Tonight’s effort was a combination of a good pitching performance, and good solid defense,” said USA head coach Mike Candrea. “That’s more like USA softball right there.”
Tonight’s game will be replayed on ESPN at 12 p.m. CST while the championship game will be Airing LIVE on ESPN2 Monday, July 18 at 8 p.m. CST. The U.S. opponent will be determined on Sunday as pool play continues for the four remaining teams.
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