U.S. ends ‘Aiming for Athen’s tour with back-to-back no-hitters
STRATFORD, CT – Back-to-back no-hit performances by the USA Softball pitching staff closed out the 2004 ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour on Saturday evening at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field. With 3,320 fans filling the stands, the U.S. defeated the perennial power Stratford Brakettes 14-0 and 8-0 totaling 24 hits on the evening. Highlighted by six U.S. home runs, Team USA was flawless from the field as well as in the circle.
Pushing its pre-Olympic tour win streak to 166, dating back to 1996, the U.S. finished the 2004 tour at 53-0 outscoring opponents 476-14.
After 10-day break, Team USA will meet again on July 28 when it will travel to Athens, Greece to begin two-weeks of preparation before the Olympic Games. Set for competition beginning August 14, the Red, White and Blue will look to defend their two-time Olympic gold medal against a stellar field that includes Olympic silver medalist Japan and bronze medalist Australia.
The visiting U.S. team took an early lead in the top half of the first thanks to back-to back home runs. Left-handed slap hitter Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) led off the inning with an infield base hit followed by a perfect sacrifice bunt by Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hill, CA). An intentional walk issued to power-hitter Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA) by Brakette’s hurler Michelle Green then brought veteran Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) to the plate. A 1-1 count, the two-time gold medalist drove the pitch deep to left-center for a three run home run and the early advantage. Then it was catcher Stacey Nuveman’s (La Verne, CA) turn at the plate as she blasted her sixth home run of the tour pushing the U.S. to a 4-0 lead after just the first half inning.
From the circle, U.S. south paw and winning pitcher Cat Osterman (Houston, TX) dominated the Brakette batters combining with Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) for the ninth no-hitter of the tour. Osterman tallied nine strikeouts in four complete innings completing the tour at a perfect 16-0 and is the only U.S. pitcher to not allow an earned run this season.
The U.S. bats broke open the game in the top of the third inning scoring nine runs on eight hits. A grand slam by Mendoza, her second home run of the game, put four of the eight runs on the board before a two RBI double from Amico plated Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA), who reached on a base hit, and Watley, who reached on a walk.
Mendoza, Kretschman, and Amico all contributed a 2-for-3 outing while Mendoza added five RBI and Fernandez contributed two.
Beginning game two in similar fashion, the Red, White and Blue jumped ahead 2-0 thanks to a Jenny Topping (Whittier, CA) two RBI double scoring Fernandez and Amico who both reached on base hits.
Two additional runs in the top of the third put the U.S. on top of the Brakettes 4-0. Fernandez knocked a solo home run, her seventh of the tour, out of the ballpark before a Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Springs, FL) single through the right side plated Topping who reached on a free pass.
Topping contributed her second hit of the game blasting a three run home run to dead center, the sixth home run of the night, for the eventual 8-0 mercy rule victory.
Completing the tour at 9-0, Harrigan recorded the win for Team USA combining with Fernandez for the no-hit performance.