U.S. tallies 17 runs in back-to-back mercy rule victories
SOUTH BEND, IN – The USA Softball Olympic team continued to dominate its ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour opponents capturing back-to-back shutout victories against the Midwest All-Stars in South Bend, IN on Friday evening. A crowd of 2400, a 10-0 rout in game one and a 7-0 decision in game two, the U.S. improved its tour record to 44-0 outscoring opponents 390-11. Increasing the pre-Olympic tour win streak to 158 dating back to May of 1996, the U.S. has just seven tour stops left before heading to Athens, Greece for the Olympic Games August 13-25.
The Red, White and Blue combined two five-run innings in game one to capture a 10-0 mercy rule victory. Winning pitcher Cat Osterman (Houston, TX), 13-0, tossed a one-hitter from the circle with 13 strikeouts in five complete innings.
The Midwest All-Stars actually saw the first runner of the game in scoring position in the first inning after an error from Osterman and a stolen base landed Angela Knight at second. But it was all Osterman after that as she retired the next two outs via strikeout. The U.S. offensive arsenal began rolling in the second when Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) snuck a base hit back to the pitcher and Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, FL) reached on a fielding error by All-Star second baseman Vicki Nelson. Almost clearing the bags, Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA) then pulled a line drive triple to the right field fences plating Fernandez and Kretschman for a 2-0 lead. Three more runs complimentary of a fielder’s choice and a Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) two run home run, just her second of the tour, put the U.S. in front 5-0.
Adding five runs in the third, it was Fernandez again who led the way beginning the inning with a double to left field. A two RBI single from Mendoza then plated Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) and pinch runner Nicole Giordano (Saugus, CA) while Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA) added an RBI base hit to left field. A walk to Watley in conjunction with a fielder’s choice to Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, CA) put runners aboard for top hitter Bustos who notched a two RBI single up the middle for the 10-0 difference.
All but two of the U.S. starters came away with a hit in the mercy rule victory while Watley, Fernandez and Mendoza each contributed two hits. Lauren Hines tallied the All-Stars only hit of the game in the top of the fourth with a drive to left center.
A two-out sacrifice fly from Bustos pushed the U.S. to an early 1-0 lead at the start of the second game. Lead off hitter Watley reached on a walk, advanced to second on a stolen base, sped to third on a ground out before scoring on the sacrifice fly.
But a 1-0 lead wouldn’t last long as the U.S. bats continued to hammer home collecting four runs on four hits in the second inning. A lead off single to left center from Kretschman led things off before a Watley walk and bunt single from Mendoza loaded the bases for power hitter Bustos. A two RBI single up the middle, totaling her tour RBI count to 78, put the U.S. up 3-0. A two RBI Jenny Topping (Whittier, CA) single through the left side cushioned the U.S. lead headed into the third inning.
Two more runs in the third thanks to an RBI triple to right field from Kretschman and a fielding error by the All-Star second baseman, lifted the U.S. to the eventual 7-0 win. Mendoza and Kretschman led both teams with two hits a piece.
U.S. winning pitcher Fernandez combined for a one-hit performance and her 11th victory of the tour. She had five strikeouts and has a 0.25 ERA in tour action.
Team USA will take Saturday to travel north to Midland, MI where they play at Currie Stadium on Sunday, July 4 at 3 p.m.