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USA Gold, USA Blue Win First Round Playoff Games at Canada Cup

USA Gold and USA Blue both posted first round victories Friday in the playoff portion of the 1999 Canada Cup at Surrey, British Columbia.

Michele Smith took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, while Laura Berg and Lisa Fernandez combined to drive in all four runs to lead USA Gold to a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Sunbirds. Fernandez put USA Gold on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI-triple.

The score remained 1-0 until the fourth inning when Berg drove home a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to extend USA Gold's lead to 2-0. In the sixth inning, Berg doubled home a run and scored on a single by Fernandez.

Smith held Phoenix hitless and allowed only two baserunners through six innings before losing her bid for a no-hitter and a shutout in the seventh. Lori Harrigan finishedthe final inning to record the save. Smith struck out seven and finished with a two-hitter.

Christie Ambrosi and Leah O'Brien-Amico both went 2-for-3 for USA Gold.

Teri Klement's three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth broke open a close game and Sarah Dawson extinguished a bases-loaded threat in the fourth inning as USA Blue defeated Team Texas 6-1.

USA Gold took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on Kim Maher's RBI-ground out. Maher drove in USA Gold's second run with a bases loaded single in the fifth and Lisa Carey drove in another run with an RBI-ground out to give USA Blue a 3-0 lead.

Team Texas scored in the top of the sixth on Becky Newbry's RBI-single, but USA Blue answered in the bottom of the inning as Klement hit her third home run of the tournament, a three-run shot, to put the game away. Klement and Nina Lindenberg had two hits apiece for USA Blue, while Barbara Jordan scored three of USA Blue's six runs.

USA Blue starter Courtney Blades struck out seven and pitched three-and-two-thirds hitless innings, but got in trouble in the fourth by walking the bases loaded after retiring the first two batters. Dawson closed out the inning with a ground out and struck out the side in the fifth inning. Amanda Freed retired the final batter in the seventh to close out the game.

In Friday's other first round games, Japan defeated China 2-1 and Australia defeated Decatur Twisters 3-0.

Both USA Gold and USA Blue play second round games at noon today (CDT). USA Gold takes on Australia, while USA Blue faces Japan. The two winners face each other at 9 p.m. tonight, which could see the first meeting between USA Gold and USA Blue in the Canada Cup. Both teams are 8-0 overall and 1-0 in the playoffs.

In other Canada Cup events, USA Gold's Crystl Bustos and USA Blue's Nina Lindenberg both advanced to the final round of the Canada Cup home run derby. The finals will take place tonight at 8 p.m.

For boxscores, USA cumulative stats and a complete schedule of remaining games, visit the ASA Canada Cup Home Page at http://www.softball.org/99CanadaCup/99CanadaCuphomepage.html.