Lisa Fernandez, who pitched USA's final 18 innings, tossed a three-hit shutout and Natasha Watley scored the only run of the game in the third inning as USA defeated Japan 1-0 Sunday in the Gold Medal Game of the X ISF Women's World Championship at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. USA, which posted a perfect 10-0 record at this year's championship, has now won five consecutive ISF World Championships. The title gives USA the No. 1 seed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Watley, who went 3-for-3 on the day, singled with one out in the bottom of the third, then stole second, her fifth stolen base of the championship in as many attempts. Leah O'Brien-Amico then followed with a double to right-center field to plate Watley. Watley hit .516 (16-for-31) with 10 runs scored at the championship, both team highs.
Fernandez was given the start in the Gold Medal Game, even after pitching the final two innings in relief Friday against Australia and pitching all nine innings Saturday against Japan. Fernandez retired the first 15 batters she faced before allowing a leadoff single in the top of the sixth. A lineout double play helped put a quick end to the inning, but Japan mounted its most serious threat in the seventh. A pair of singles put runners on first and third with one out, but Fernandez retired the final batter on a pop-out to Watley at shortstop to end the game and clinch the gold. Fernandez finished with one strikeout and no walks, and faced only two batters above the minimum.
Earlier Sunday, Japan defeated Chinese Taipei 2-1 to advance to the Gold Medal Game. Japan finished with the silver medal, while Chinese Taipei took home the bronze. Chinese Taipei eliminated both Australia and China on its way to the bronze medal. Japan finished the World Championship with a 9-2 record, both losses coming to USA.
By finishing in the top four, Japan, Chinese Taipei and China join USA in clinching berths in the 2004 Olympics.
This year's World Championship witnessed a bit of controversy over two incidents involving the display of a banned flag. Prior to Chinese Taipei's contest against Australia Saturday afternoon, a Chinese Taipei athlete carried a flag onto the field that has been banned by the International Olympic Committee and by the International Softball Federation at events sanctioned by the ISF. Saturday night after Chinese Taipei defeated China, a fan jumped onto the field and brought the same flag past the Team China dugout.
In response to the Chinese Taipei athlete carrying the banned flag, an ISF Championship Tribunal conducted a hearing and made the decision to suspend Chinese Taipei Head of Delegation Hsieh (Steeve) Ching-Wen for the remainder of the championship, including Chinese Taipei's remaining games and Closing Ceremonies. He was also put on probation for two years. Regarding the fan displaying the flag on the field, the ISF expressed its disapproval to Softball Canada and is reprimanding the Women's World Championship Organizing Committee for the lack of security which allowed the incident to happen.
Below is a rundown of results from the playoff rounds of the ISF World Championship.
Game No. Winner Loser Score Day
C1 USA Australia 4-3 Friday
C2 Japan China 5-0 Friday
C3 Chinese Taipei Puerto Rico 5-1 Friday
(Puerto Rico eliminated)
C4 New Zealand Italy 3-0 Friday
C5 Chinese Taipei Australia 4-2 Saturday
C6 China New Zealand 4-2 Saturday
(New Zealand eliminated)
C7 USA Japan 1-0 (9 inn.) Saturday
C8 Chinese Taipei China 6-5 Saturday
(China eliminated; clinches berth in 2004 Olympics)
C9 Japan Chinese Taipei 2-1 Sunday
(Chinese Taipei wins Bronze Medal; clinches berth in 2004 Olympics)
C10 USA Japan 1-0 Sunday
(USA wins Gold Medal; clinches No. 1 seed at 2004 Olympics)
(Japan wins Silver Medal; clinches berth in 2004 Olympics)