USA blanks No. 2 UCLA 11-0
WESTWOOD, CA – Returning to Easton Stadium USA workhorse and UCLA alum Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) led the USA Softball Women’s National Team to an 11-0 shutout over No. 2 UCLA on Sunday afternoon. Recording a one hit performance, the win advanced the 5’6” legend to 5-0 in tour action while the defending two-time gold medal winning team improved to 25-0.
Riding a 136-game pre-Olympic tour win streak, the victory completed the collegiate portion of the ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour as the Red, White and Blue outscored its opponents 229-9 averaging 9.16 runs a game. The victory was the 18th mercy rule win on the tour.
“Lisa continues to get better and better everyday,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “She is an incredible athlete and what makes her so good is the fact that she always wants to improve. She always wants to learn and knows exactly how to make adjustments to become even better than she is.”
Scoreless through the first three innings, it was a pitchers duel between Fernandez and UCLA starting pitcher Keira Goerl (Moreno Valley, CA) who each finished with six strikeouts a piece. A walk in the second to Tairia Mims Flowers (Tucson, AZ) was the only runner to reach base through the first three innings.
Playing textbook softball, however, the U.S. exploded for eight runs in the top of the third inning to take a solid 8-0 lead. An infield base hit from Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) followed by an intended sacrifice bunt from speedster Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA), that resulted in a base hit put two runners on board for an early rally. Lead-off hitter Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) then laid down a sacrifice bunt which was followed by a throwing error from Goerl to plate Freed for the 1-0 go ahead lead. An intentional walk to U.S. slugger Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA) loaded the bags for Fernandez who unleashed a two RBI double up the middle scoring Berg and Watley. One of five UCLA alum on the USA roster, Mims Flowers then loaded the bases again with a base on balls before a single from Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) scored Bustos for the fourth U.S. run. With bases loaded for the third time in the inning, outfielder Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, FL) came through with her first ever career grand slam with a booming shot to left field to give the U.S. a comfortable 8-0 lead.
Continuing to shut down the Bruins offense with stifling pitching, the U.S. bats added two more runs in the fourth after base hits from Fernandez and Bustos followed by a walk to Mims Flowers loaded the bases for the fourth time. An RBI single to left field from Jung added the ninth U.S. run before Fernandez crossed home plate for the 10-0 lead after a fielder’s choice from Kretschman.
A bunt single from Watley in the fifth followed by a Bustos driving double to left field added the final run of the game for the Red, White and Blue. While Fernandez stymied the UCLA bats through four innings, Bruin catcher Emily Zaplatosch connected on an infield base hit in the fifth halting the Fernandez no-hitter. A fly out to centerfield followed by a pop up to shortstop sealed the 11-0 win as Fernandez and crew received a warm ovation from the appreciative crowd.
“This tour is all about the process,” Candrea said. “We have played some good match ups and we have to continue to improve as we strive to reach that ultimate goal in Athens.”
Bustos, Fernandez, and Jung finished with two hits a piece while Kretschman added five RBI on the afternoon. Through 25 games played, Bustos sits atop the stat files for the U.S. with a .551 batting average with 46 RBI and 13 home runs. Kretschman has combined for a .480 average with 18 RBI going 24-for-50. From the circle, the U.S. hurlers have tallied a 0.39 ERA allowing just 9 runs in 144 innings pitched.
Following an eight day hiatus, Team USA will continue preparation for Athens on April 6 as they travel abroad to Italy for three weeks competing in a series of exhibition games. Following a few match-ups with the Italian National team, one of eight competitors in the Olympic Games, the squad will return to the States in May to kick-off the grassroots tour on May 17 in San Antonio, Texas.