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Cathi Aradi

Playoff Split Means Early Day For Team USA At ISF World Championship

HAARLEM, Netherlands –- Following a near 30-hour delay due to rain, the USA Softball Women’s National Team began the playoff portion of the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship on Saturday. Team USA, playing as the top seed from Pool B, defeated Canada 6-1 in their first game to earn a matchup later in the day with the only other undefeated team in the tournament, Japan. With a spot in Sunday’s Gold medal game on the line, Japan jumped out early on the USA and never let up as they went on to win 6-1.

USA 6, Canada 1

Despite being held scoreless for the first three innings versus Canada on Saturday, Team USA posted six runs in the final four frames to take a 6-1 win and advance to the next round in the winners bracket at the ISF World Championship. Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) each homered resulting in five of USA’s six runs. Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) started the game in the circle and lasted 3.1 innings before Sara Nevins (Pinellas Park, Fla.) entered in relief to earn the win.

“I loved the little things that we did to get the win over Canada,” said USA Head Coach Ken Eriksen. “Sacrifice bunts, aggressive base running, those are things that don’t look all that impressive on a score sheet but they add up to wins.”

Samantha Fischer (Simi Valley, Calif.) lead off the top off the fourth with a ground ball single to short stop and advanced to second via a Moultie sacrifice bunt in the next at-bat. A walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Team USA with Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) up next. The outfielder singled to left field scoring the first USA run of the game.

The lead didn’t last long as Canada started the bottom off the fourth with a single and followed it with a shot to center field that barely snuck past McCleney’s glove. The first runner scored but Moultrie gunned down the second runner at third to preserve the tie through four.

Gibson walked to start the fifth inning and a Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) sacrifice bunt advanced her to second. Two batters later, Moultrie put Team USA ahead for good when she sent the first pitch she saw sailing over the center field wall.

Nevins retired the side in the bottom off the fifth and Team USA added insurance runs in the sixth. With two outs, Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) singled to third base and Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) followed her up with a single to left field. With the runners on base, Gibson sent an 0-2 pitch over the center field wall for a three-run homer to give Team USA their 6-1 lead.

With the favorable lead, Nevins kept the Canadian batters in check through the sixth and most of the seventh innings. In the bottom of the seventh, the lefty gave up her first hit of the game, a two-out single to Joey Lye. In the next at-bat, with an 0-2 count, Jaclyn Traina (Naples, Fla.) entered the circle to pitch. Needing just one strike to end it, Traina followed a foul ball with a swinging strikeout and Team USA secured the win.

Japan 6, USA 1

Japan jumped out to an early lead on Team USA in their game late Saturday evening at the ISF World Championship. Facing Jolene Henderson (Elk Grove, Calif.) Japan scored one run in the first and added three in the second to put the Americans in a four-run hole early in the game. Offensively Team USA couldn’t get much going early facing Japanese veteran Yukiko Ueno.

“We put the ball in play and put runners on base,” said Eriksen. “We did some nice things, just had a few small errors and when you’re playing Japan they will take advantage of those errors. The great thing is, we still have tomorrow. We just have to play great softball for one day and then we can call ourselves World Champions.”

A Japan two-out single in the top of the first was followed by an Eri Yamada double scored the first run of the game as Japan went up 1-0. Gibson walked and Arioto singled in the bottom half of the inning but Ueno left them stranded, getting a strikeout to end the inning.

Japan added three more runs in the second off of two singles and a walk before Traina entered to pitch for Team USA. With two outs, Traina pitched a fly ball to end the Japan rally.

Both teams remained scoreless through the third inning. In the top of the fourth, Japan added a fifth run, this time off of Traina. Nagayoski singled to start the inning and was later brought around to score on a Kawano single to short stop.

Team USA gave up the sixth and final run to Japan in the top of the fifth. Mine doubled to right field to start the at-bat and after Sakamoto laid down a sac-bunt to advance her to second, a Sato single to short stop scored the runner from second putting Japan up 6-0.

The Americans finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth when Hoagland drew a walk and later came around to score on a Kellie Fox (San Diego, Calif.) single to right field. Nevins retired the side in the top of the seventh but the USA bats couldn’t muster a comeback as Japan secured the 6-1 win.

Sunday morning at 5 a.m. ET, the USA will play Australia, a 7-3 winner over Canada later Saturday. The winner of Sunday morning's matchup advances to place Japan in the Gold medal game at 7 a.m. ET. Live streaming and live stats are available via www.USASoftball.com throughout the ISF World Championship. Log on and follow Team USA as they seek a 10th World Championship Gold.

-- courtesy ASA/USA Softball