Finch tosses no-hitter as U.S. records back-to-back shut outs
CLEARWATER, FL – Back-to-back shutout victories including a no-hitter from pitching ace Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) allowed the U.S. to improve to a perfect 14-0 as they continue on their barnstorming ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour.
Pushing its pre-Olympic tour win streak to 129, the U.S. offense lit the scoreboard at the Speedline Invitational defeating No. 22 Iowa 11-0 and Baylor 10-0. Totaling 22 hits on the evening, the bats continued to connect as the bullpen stifled opponents allowing no runs and just three hits.
Recording the first individual no-hitter in tour action, Finch was flawless from the circle with nine strikeouts in game one.
“Jennie threw very well tonight and had great command,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “She was getting ahead of hitters and she is very capable of doing that. She can be overpowering and really had the off speed pitch going for her.”
With a strong offensive support staff behind the arm of Finch, the U.S. took an early 1-0 lead in the first and never looked back. A lead off infield single from Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) followed by a sacrifice bunt from Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, CA), put the first runner in scoring position. A ground out to the shortstop from Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) resulted in an RBI and the U.S. first run of the evening.
Batting through the line up in the second inning, the Red, White and Blue pieced together six runs to push to a solid 7-0 lead. Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) led the inning with a base on balls followed by a single from Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, FL). With runners on board, centerfielder Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA) jolted a triple, her first of the tour, through the left side to clear the bags. Base hits from Watley and Amico only added to the fire as the swing of batting leader (.634) Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA) sent a three-run home run to left field for the 7-0 advantage.
The U.S. added its final four runs in the third inning before completing its 10th mercy rule win. With Berg at first after being hit by a pitch, the strength of the designated player Bustos highlighted the inning as she sent a towering home run over the left center fences, her second of the game and 10th of the tour. She has recorded 31 RBI in just 14 games played and recorded 26 hits.
Finch moved to 4-0 with the win while Bustos led all hitters going 3-for-3. Watley and Kretschman finished the game with two hits a piece.
In the second match up of the evening over Baylor, the U.S. contingent performed in similar fashion posting a 10-0 margin of victory. Winning pitcher Cat Osterman (Houston, TX) completed all five innings with 10 strikeouts and allowed just three hits in the contest.
Scoring two runs in the first, the U.S. took the early lead again thanks to the lead off success of Watley who singled to the shortstop. Stealing second and later heading to third on a wild pitch, Watley would later score the first run on a sacrifice fly from Bustos. Back-to-back base hits from Fernandez and Tairia Flowers (Tucson, AZ) put runners on the bases before a throwing error from the Baylor second baseman scored Fernandez for run No. 2.
Left fielder Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA) saw her fifth home run of the tour sail into left field to begin the second inning for Team USA. Watley then singled to left center while Amico poked a base hit through the right side. An RBI single from Bustos pushed Watley across home plate before Fernandez drove a line drive RBI base hit to left field gap. Flowers contributed a double scoring Fernandez for the 6-0 lead.
In the fourth, the U.S. sealed the mercy rule victory combining for four additional runs. The first run came off of a similar RBI single from Fernandez while a rundown resulted in two errors from Baylor pitcher Lisa Ferguson and the final three runs for the U.S.
Watley and Fernandez each tallied 3-for-3 outings while Flowers went 2-for-3 including a double.
After 14 games played, the U.S. has dominated its collegiate opponents outscoring them 138-8 allowing just seven earned runs. They will finish up play in the Speedline Invitational on Saturday battling tournament host University South Florida at 6 p.m. and Oregon at 8 p.m.
“This tour has been really good thus far and we have seen some good competition,” Candrea said. “Overall we are accomplishing what we want… at bats, playing as a team, and training through this working our mental and physical game.”