USA Women impressive in opening weekend of ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour
Palm Springs, CA--- The USA Softball Women’s Olympic Team squeaked past No. 21 Oregon State 4-2 today at Big League Dreams Sports Park. Battling a steady rain the entire game, the U.S. finished its first tournament of the ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour with a 5-0 record. A strong opening performance by Team USA, the two-time gold medal team outscored weekend opponents 42-5 while keeping its 120 game pre-Olympic tour win streak intact.
“We are looking for progress everyday throughout this process,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “Today with the sloppy fields and you can think of all kinds of excuses, but you still have your uniform on and we still have another team we are competing against and I expect us to compete hard.”
Overall I was pleased with our performance this weekend. I thought we swung the bats well and it was a good start for us. We are looking for progress not just physically but mentally and emotionally as a team and this type of competition is going to give us opportunities to go through all of that.”
The U.S. jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning compliments of a lead-off single by Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) and a double by Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA). After a single by Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) and a walk to Tairia Flowers (Tucson, AZ) the bases were loaded for Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA). Patience at the plate paid off for Freed as she received a walk to score Bustos and push the lead to 2-0.
The Beavers were miffed by the U.S. pitchers collecting only one hit in the first three innings and were fanned five times. However, in the fourth the hitters caught up with relief pitcher Lori Harrigan (Las Vegas, NV). OSU shortstop Kelly Petersen led off the inning by launching a 1-1 offering over the leftfield fence to cut the U.S. lead in half. First baseman Vanessa Iapala followed suit by slamming a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to tie the game at 2-2.
With the game hanging in the balance the U.S. offensive support stepped up in the bottom of the inning and posted two runs for a 4-2 advantage. It was Bustos yet again who pushed the U.S. ahead after a hard hit RBI single through the left side plated Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA), who earlier reached on a fielder’s choice. A throwing error from the Oregon State catcher later scored Watley for the final run of the game.
Bustos, who finished the game going 3-for-4, had an exceptional weekend recording a .688 batting average with 11 hits, two doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI.
“Starting out this week I actually felt like I was getting ahead of the pitches,” Bustos said. “But then Coach Rittman worked with me, we made some adjustments and it paid off this weekend.”
“I thought overall she (Bustos) really had a good eye and swung at good pitches this weekend,” Candrea said. “She was very calm at the plate and connected on some big hits for us.”
Tossing the entire bullpen, Cat Osterman (Houston, TX) pitched 1.2 innings of relief, allowed two hits to pick up with her second win of the weekend. Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) got the save working 2.1 innings striking out five of seven batters she faced.
Behind the dominance of the Bustos’ bat, Kelly Kretschman contributed a .500 weekend while Berg was close behind hitting .417 going 5-for-12. As a team, the U.S. hit .359 for the weekend while the pitching staff allowed just four earned runs.
A few days of rest and training are up next for Team USA before they head to Columbus, GA for competition in the NFCA Classic beginning Feb. 27.