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Cathi Aradi

Tarango's Grand Slam Gives USA Gold at Junior World National Championships

Photo Courtesy of ASA/USA SoftballCAPE TOWN, South Africa - The United States claimed the 2011 International Softball Federation (ISF) Junior Women’s World Championship today in Cape Town, South Africa, with a 4-1 defeat of Japan in the Gold Medal Game. After a semifinal loss to Japan on Friday, the Americans topped Chinese Taipei 12-3 in the six inning Bronze Medal Game and then topped Japan to secure the Gold Medal.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” designated player Cheyenne Tarango (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) said.

Tarango provided all the offense the Americans needed to claim the title. With bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, she hit the first home run of her USA Softball career, a grand slam home run over the left field fence.

“Honestly in my head, I was just thinking about a base hit,” said Tarango, who appeared in six games in the tournament. “I thought that if I could just get the first RBI, Lauren Haeger would be able to take care of the rest.”

Pitcher Haeger (Phoenix, Ariz.) did her part in the circle, allowing only five hits to a Japanese team that pounded three U.S. pitchers for 11 hits and nine runs Friday. The sole run crossed the plate in the sixth when a Kylee Lahners (Laguna Hills, Calif.) fielding error allowed third baseman Mina Yamashiro to cross the plate.

“I felt really honored that my team had faith in me,” Haeger said. “I was so excited. To get to pitch against Japan in any game is awesome, let alone the Gold Medal Game. I feel honored to have had the chance to pitch a game like this for my country.”

Haeger struck out eight batters including the last two.

“I was really excited to just get in the Gold Medal Game and play,” she said. “I was hitting my spots and doing everything right today. I was throwing hard. Everything, every pitch worked out.”

The United States finishes the tournament with a record of 10-1, the only loss being the 9-0 five inning loss to Japan.

“It is always tough to take a loss like we did to Japan last night but I think that it was good for them,” Head Coach Karen Johns (Whippany, N.J.) said. “It showed them how much they wanted to have a Gold Medal around their neck and gave them the motivation to fight for it. I am so proud of them and how they performed today. Without a doubt, they deserve to be called Junior Women's World Champions.”

It is the second consecutive title for the Americans. Team USA has played in each of the six previous Championship Games held, defeating China for the inaugural title in 1987, losing to Japan in 1991, defeating Japan in 1995 and losing to Japan in 1999 and 2003 before reclaiming the top spot from Japan in 2007.

The U.S. qualified for the Junior Women’s World Championship in August 2010 by winning the III Pan American Championships (18-Under) in Bogota, Colombia, with a 9-0 record that included two wins against Canada and another against Puerto Rico. In the Championship Game, Team USA defeated Canada 3-1. The two teams also met in pool play during that event with the U.S. claiming a 3-0 victory. In the semi-final, the Americans defeated Puerto Rico 6-1.

Since competing in Bogota, the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team played in a summer exhibition series against the 2011 USA Softball Women’s National Team in Tampa, Salem, Va., and Bowie, Md. The team rejoined in Cape Town for the first time since early July.

The members of the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team hail from seven states and 11 universities. Team members are Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif./UCLA freshman), Lauren Chamberlain (Trabuco Canyon, Calif./Oklahoma freshman), Cheyenne Cordes (Fairfield, Calif./California freshman), Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif./Florida sophomore), Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo./Florida freshman), Escobedo, Amber Freeman (Lakewood, Calif./Arizona State freshman), Erin Gabriel (Poland, Ohio/Poland Seminary High School senior), Goodacre, Lauren Haeger (Phoenix, Ariz./Florida freshman), Kylee Lahners (Laguna Hills, Calif./Washington freshman), Destinee Martinez (Corona, Calif./Oklahoma sophomore), Kourtney Salvarola (Arnold, Md./South Florida sophomore), Cheyanne Tarango (Anaheim Hills, Calif./Tennessee freshman), Nyree White (Eugene, Ore./Stanford freshman), Hallie Wilson (North Tustin, Calif./Arizona freshman) and Chelsea Zgrabik (Nokomis, Fla./Florida Gulf Coast sophomore).

Coyle was named to the roster in late July by the USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Committee (WNTSC) after Shelby Pendley (Albuquerque, N.M./Arizona freshman) withdrew from the team due to injury. Madison Shipman (Valencia, Calif./Tennessee sophomore) also withdrew from the team due to injury in September and was replaced by Damico.

The Junior Women’s National Team is coached by Johns with assistants Suzy Brazney (Huntington Beach, Calif./head coach Golden West College) and Tony Rico (Huntington Beach, Calif./coach Worth Firecrackers). Joe Salvatore (Monroe Township, N.J./coach New Jersey Breakers) serves as the volunteer assistant coach. Michael White (Eugene, Ore./head coach Oregon) is the batting and pitching coach.

-Courtesy of ASA/USA Softball