U.S. records back-to-back shut out victories on ‘Aiming for Athens’ Tour to improve to 4-0
PALM SPRINGS, CA – Not allowing a single run, the U.S. Women moved to 4-0 as they continue their ‘Aiming for Athens’ pre-Olympic tour. Shutting out Notre Dame 10-0 and No. 12 Tennessee 8-0, the victories moved the overall U.S. Pre-Olympic tour streak to 120 as they continue competition in the Palm Springs Classic.
Silent through the first, the U.S. bats came alive in the bottom of the second off a two out rally to get things started versus Notre Dame. A bullet down the right field line from Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA) resulted in a double before a double to left field from Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, FL) plated Mendoza for an early 1-0 lead.
An Irish pitching change in the bottom of the fourth didn’t affect the U.S. offensive arsenal as it pushed the lead to 3-0. A walk to Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) led things off before it was Mendoza again who connected on an infield base hit. Kretschman soon tallied her second RBI with a line drive blast up the middle scoring Jung before a Laura Berg (Santa Fe, CA) base hit through the middle advanced Mendoza sixty feet across home plate.
Her third home run in three games, Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA) then wowed the crowd once again with a solo home run to centerfield that reached the 280 feet mark. Adding two more runs off a series of Notre Dame errors, the U.S. maintained a solid 6-0 advantage through the fifth before the bat of Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) exploded with a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth to end the game via the mercy rule after bases were loaded off of three consecutive walks to Jaime Clark (Tustin, CA), Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) and Tairia Flowers (Tucson, AZ). Fernandez slammed a 2-0 pitch down the left field line to end the third consecutive game on walk off home runs resulting in mercy rule victories.
Winning pitcher Lori Harrigan (Las Vegas, NV) contributed four complete innings recording seven strikeouts allowing two hits and no runs. Fernandez finished the game tossing the fifth and sixth inning retiring four of six batters via strikeout.
In game two, the U.S. posted an 8-0 win in five innings over the No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers. The combination of hurlers Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) and Cat Osterman (Houston, TX) stifled the UT offense striking out 12 of 16 batters faced. They allowed just one hit while Finch garnered the win tossing four complete innings with 10 strikeouts.
The Stars and Stripes jumped ahead early and never looked back scoring runs in four of the five innings played. Beginning in the bottom of the first, the speed of Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) was too much for the Vols as she contributed an infield base hit, stolen base and scored the first run off a Bustos sacrifice fly.
Currently leading the U.S. arsenal with a .667 batting average and nine RBI, it was the swing of Bustos again in the third that jolted a triple to right field to begin the inning. The home run swing of Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) off a 0-2 pitch then put two more runs on board for Team USA for the 3-0 lead.
“Today was much better for everyone,” Jung said. “We were so anxious to play some games so we were very relaxed tonight. I felt like I was seeing the ball well and really felt on track.”
The U.S. continued to increase its lead again thanks to Bustos who added an RBI single in the fourth. Four more runs were added in the fifth due to a couple of walks, suspect defense, and multiple wild pitches that allowed the U.S. to push across the four runs it needed for the mercy rule victory.
Bustos and Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) were both solid at the plate going 2-for-2. Bustos and Jung each contributed two RBI in the game. With the double-header sweeper the U.S. increases its U.S. pre-Olympic tour win streak to 119.
Set to take on Oregon State on Sunday, February 22, the U.S. will finish up play in the Palm Springs Classic before heading across the country to play in the NFCA Classic February 27-29 in Columbus, GA.