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USA Blanks Host South Africa At Junior World Championships

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - With the momentum of five two-out hits in the fourth inning, the United States overcame a slow start to beat South Africa 8-0 in five innings Sunday. The win over the well-supported home country at the 2011 International Softball Federation (ISF) Junior Women’s World Championship in Cape Town, South Africa, improves Team USA’s record to 4-0 in pool play with three games remaining. 

The Red, White and Blue had only one hit each in the first, second and third innings. In the top of the fourth with two-outs, designated player Lauren Haeger (Phoenix, Ariz.) singled up the middle to start the American rally. Cheyenne Cordes (Fairfield, Calif.) followed with a centerfield triple, the first of six extra base hits for the team, and put the first run on the board. After a series of foul balls, Chelsea Zgrabik (Nokomis, Fla.) hit a two-run home run that made it a 3-0 lead. 

"After my first at-bat, which was a strike out, they were throwing me outside so I figured that's where I had to go," Zgrabik said. "Then I had [assistant coach] Tony Rico tell me 'Look to the right side, look to the right side' so I just had to calm myself down. [Assistant Coach Suzy Brazney] told me to take a deep breath. I fouled off a bunch of pitches then she happened to throw me the right pitch." 

It marks the first home run of the tournament for the Americans. While Zgrabik holds the record for the most home runs hit in a Florida high school season with 13 blasts, the shot to left center in Cape Town is her first as a USA Softball player. 

"The wind has been a really huge factor in us not hitting home runs," Zgrabik said. "I didn't even think I hit it out honestly. I thought I missed it and it just happened to go over. It was one of those." 

Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.), who was added to the team roster in September following Madison Shipman’s (Valencia , Calif.), next recorded her first hit in USA Softball play with a double to left center. Nyree White (Eugene, Ore.) hit an RBI single before the rally ended with a Destinee Martinez (Corona, Calif.) fly out. 

Four runs were also recorded in the fifth. Second baseman Kylee Lahners (Laguna Hills, Calif.) led off with a single then scored on an Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) double to left center. Kourtney Salvarola (Arnold, Md.) hit a single through the left side that scored Carda, who had advanced to second on a stolen base. The RBI chased Natalie Abrahams, who allowed three earned runs in relief of starter Lauren Mulder. 

With Angelque Botes pitching, Chelsea Goodacre (Temecula, Calif.) grounded out to second base to record the first out of the inning. Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) doubled to score Salvarola. Coyle advanced to third on a Zgrabik sacrifice fly. She scored when Damico reached on an error and later advanced to second on a passed ball. White flied out to end the inning. 

Cheyenne Tarango (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) recorded two consecutive strike outs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game. Tarango, pitching two innings in relief of starter Erin Gabriel (Poland, Ohio) struck out three batters overall. She allowed one hit, giving up a double to Shadine Van Der Merwe, the first batter she faced in the top of the fourth. 

Gabriel received her first start of the tournament. After Abrahams singled to right field and Christine Cronje walked in the first, Gabriel kept the South Africans off the bases. She struck out three batters. 

“I was fortunate enough to get the home crowd, South Africa, so it was pretty loud and pretty exciting. It gave me a lot of adrenaline,” Gabriel said. “I couldn’t really hear what was going on in our own dugout, which was kind of hard, but once I calmed myself down and got used to the [20 second] pitching timer, everything went well.” 

At 17 years old, Gabriel is the youngest member of the 17-person 2011 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team. The Poland Seminary senior, who signed a National Letter of Intent with Tennessee, is also the only player still in high school. 

“Erin impressed me with how well she performed in front of the enthusiastic South African crowd. It was a great crowd today,” Head Coach Karen Johns (Whippany, N.J.) said. “They were extremely supportive throughout the whole game. Sometimes a young pitcher can really let an tough opposing crowd affect her performance but Erin did a nice job of playing her game. She kept her focus and her intensity no matter how loud the fans were at times.” 

Team USA has three pool play games remaining in Cape Town before the playoffs (Dec. 15-16) and medal rounds (Dec. 17). On Monday, the Red, White and Blue face Botswana at 12:30 p.m. South African Standard Time/4:30 a.m. CT. Team USA also faces the Czech Republic on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. SAST/9:30 a.m. CT and closes out pool play Wednesday with Puerto Rico at 2 p.m. SAST/6 a.m. CT. 

Live stats for all of the U.S. games in Cape Town are available at USASoftball.com. Team USA’s games with Botswana and the Czech Republic are also scheduled for live streaming through the tournament website (http://jwwc2011.co.za/). 

-Courtesy of ASA/USA Softball