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KFC World Cup of Softball brings premier players to Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Courtesy USA Softball The first pitch of the 2009 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flag is less than 24 hours away at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City, Okla., with the Italy and Netherlands game scheduled for July 16 at 11:30 a.m. The currently undefeated USA Softball Women’s National Team (12-0) gets into World Cup action Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Netherlands. 

A premier international event that will be aired throughout the world on the networks of ESPN, the World Cup features the top teams from the 2008 Olympic Games: gold medalists Japan, silver medalists USA, bronze medalists Australia and fourth place finishers Canada. Also making an appearance at its first ever World Cup are the Netherlands, ranked eighth at the Beijing Olympics, and Italy, an emerging softball nation. 

Netherlands and Italy will face each other at the World Cup for the first time since the Netherlands upset Italy to advance to the recent Olympics. But the biggest showdown will come on Saturday at 7 p.m. when the three-time Olympic Champion United States, now a relatively young team that relies heavily on its 10 rookies, takes on Japan for the first time since Japan took over the No. 1 world ranking by winning Beijing’s Gold Medal game 3-1. 

"The big goal is to win the gold medal every time we take the field. That's ultimately what we're about as a program," said head coach Jay Miller (Starkville, Miss.). "We want to continue that and, more importantly, we want to get better individually for our players and we want to get better as a team, bottom line." 

Though both the American and Japanese teams will look different in Oklahoma City, the eight veterans of Team USA—Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.), Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.), Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.), Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.), Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.), Cat Osterman (Houston) and Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.)—see the World Cup as an opportunity to redeem themselves from the silver medal disappointment. 

“It’s always nice to come to Oklahoma City and compete in front of the best fans in the World. I think we are all excited to face Japan as the last time we matched up with them, the result wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” said Finch. “It’s not just Japan though that we are looking to as the top teams in the World will be in Oklahoma City. It’s an amazing opportunity for softball fans to see some incredible softball action.” 

The USA is coming off its season opening 12-0 appearance at the 2009 Canada Cup in Surrey, B.C., Canada, where they captured a Gold Medal with a come-from-behind, bottom of the seventh inning rally over host Canada, 3-2. At the World Cup, the Americans will again face Canada, for the fifth time of the season, as well as Australia and the Netherlands. 

Watley (Irvine, Calif.), named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament, has been instrumental in the success of the team hitting .548 (17-for-31) with 14 RBI and 11 runs scored. Osterman and Abbott both earned four wins each for the team with Osterman earning the win in the circle in the Championship game against Canada. 

The team has outscored opponent 78-5 and have a combined .373 batting average heading into the World Cup. 

Although women’s fast pitch is the focus of the World Cup, the first USA Softball Men’s National Slow Pitch team will take part in three exhibition games on Thursday and Friday before competing in the inaugural Border Battle with Canada’s slow pitch team. 

ESPN will air seven games live from the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City while also providing coverage on the www.espn360.com Web site. For more information on the television schedule, refer to the USA Softball Web site at www.usasoftball.com/folders.asp?uid=5056. 

Tickets for the World Cup of Softball and the Border Battle are still on sale at www.softball.com and will also be available at the stadium ticket booth July 16-20. Fans who attend the games in person will have the chance to win prizes like wrist bands and even meet members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team.