USA Schutt Elite defeats China, 6-1, to open playoffs
SURREY, B.C. Vanessa Iapala (San Diego, Calif.) swatted a game-tying
home run in the fifth and delivered a two-run, two-out double in the sixth to
power the USA Schutt Elite to a 6-1 victory over China on Friday afternoon to
begin the playoff round of the 2004 Canada Cup. USA (7-1) remains in the winner's bracket to meet Australia (8-0), a 1-0 winner over Chinese Taipei,tonight at 6:30 p.m. Alicia Hollowell (Suisun, Calif.) threw three scoreless
frames in relief of Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) to improve to 2-0 in thetournament.
"Although we fought through some struggles early, I thought we made good adjustments to get on the pitcher's drop ball," said Head Coach JayMiller. "Vanessa stepped up big with the homer and two-run double. While Monica had some troubles this afternoon, Alicia was able to come up strong justthe opposite of last night. Our bench was really into the game; the key isthat it takes an entire team to win. Our goal remains to keep improving and
getting stronger each time we play.
China loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the second against Abbott but came away empty-handed. Wei Quiang and Zhang Ai poked consecutive singles before Deng Xiaoling walked to fill the sacks. Abbott worked out of the jam by popping up Wang Xiaolyan, striking out Luo Li and having Mu Xia pop up to Iapala. Guo Jia launched a one-out triple to the center field fence in the third and scampered home with the game's opening run on a suicide squeeze byclean-up hitter Tao Hua. Abbott would have Quiang tap back into the circle before catching Ai looking on strikes. After the USA was retired in order inthe fourth by pitcher Li Qi, the Chinese mounted another threat. Xiaolinglaced a single into right field and Xiaolyan reached on an infield hit for apair of runners aboard, but Abbott jammed Li's bunt attempt, resulting in aneasy putout by catcher Emily Zaplatosch (San Diego, Calif.). A sacrifice byXia moved her teammates into scoring position, only to have pinch hitter Li Chunxiza line out to Vicki Galindo (Union City, Calif.) to hold themargin at 1-0.
Limited to one hit through the first four innings, USA Schutt Elitenotched the equalizer when Iapala cranked a 1-1 pitch deep to left center forher team 's first dinger of the event. Jodie Legaspi (Garden Grove, Calif.) beatout an infield hit but was forced on second on Caitlin Lowe's (Tustin, Calif.)ground ball to the pitcher. With two out, Lowe stole second base and took third on a passed ball. However, Qi punched out Kristie Fox (San Diego, Calif.) on strikes to strand her Arizona teammate.
Hollowell replaced Abbott to start the home portion of the fifth andyielded a leadoff single to Jia. Following a sacrifice bunt by Hua, the first-team All-American struck out Qiang and put down Ai on a groundout.
Boosted by Iapala's clutch hit in the sixth, USA seized a 3-1 advantage.
Zaplatosch and Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) laced back-to-back one-outsingles before Lisa Dodd's (San Diego, Calif.) grounder forced Zaplatosch atthird. Iapala stepped to the dish and roped a double just beyond the reach of
center fielder Yi to move her club in front.
After Hollowell retired China in order in the sixth, her teammates answered with three runs on three hits to put the game well out of reach. Galindo started things off with a two-bagger to right and was sacrificed to
third by Lowe. Fox and Caitlin Benyi (Scottsdale, Ariz.) earned free passes from reliever Zhang Lixia to load the bases with one down and Zaplatosch cleared them with a single down the left field line and a fielding error by the
outfielder to give USA Schutt Elite a 6-1 cushion. Duran punched her second hit into left for runners on second and third but China would prevent Catalina Morris (Sonoita, Ariz.) and Iapala from inflicting further damage.
Hollowell retired the final eight Chinese hitters to secure the victory.The right-hander struck out three batters, giving her a team-high 27 K over16 innings of work. Abbott scattered seven hits and one run, with three strikeouts. Zaplatosch spearheaded USA's nine-hit offensive surge by going 3-for-4, while the duo of Duran (2-for-4) and Iapala (2-for-4) also turned in multiple-hit efforts.