USA Elite moves to playoffs
PLANT CITY, FL --- The bats of the Red, White and Blue finally came alive on Friday morning as the U.S. Elite Team defeated Guatemala 12-0 to finish round robin play at 6-1.
Starting pitcher Kami Keiter (Arvada, CO, Oklahoma) combined with winning pitcher Amy Harre (Nashville, IL, SIU Carbondale) for a perfect game from the circle, while seven of the nine U.S. batters contributed a hit in the contest.
As the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, the U.S. will battle No. 1 seed Chinese Taipei (6-1) at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Stadium Field. The lone loss for the U.S. was to Chinese Taipei earlier in the week in a 3-2 defeat.
“The team is definitely excited to play Chinese Taipei tomorrow,” said Miller. “After losing to them, I think they have a revenge factor. They know they can beat them and want to prove it.”
A much needed breakthrough, Team USA batted through the line-up combining for 12 runs in the first inning off of 10 hits, five of which were extra base hits.
“Obviously we had a great first inning,” said head coach Jay Miller. “We hit the ball hard from gap to gap, so it was a definite improvement. I think it gave us a little confidence. I wish we could have kept it going because we lost focus in the rest of the innings but we are moving forward.”
A lead-off double from Caitlin Benyi (Scottsdale, AZ, UCLA) jump started the U.S. followed by a Norrelle Dickson (Orange, CA, Oklahoma) bunt base hit to advance Benyi to third. Andrea Duran (Selma, CA, UCLA) cleared the bases with a chopper up the middle before the power of Sara Dean (Valencia, CA, Auburn) rocked her second triple of the tournament to right center for a 3-0 lead.
With one out, the offensive rush continued as Heather Scaglione (San Diego, CA, Oklahoma) and Lisa Dodd (San Diego, CA, UCLA) connected on RBI singles for the 5-0 lead. A triple from Kristie Fox (San Diego, CA, Arizona) pushed Scaglione across before back-to-back walks loaded the bases for Dickson. A sacrifice fly to centerfield moved the U.S. into a solid 7-0 advantage with one out.
An error by the Guatemalan centerfielder soon added two runs before another RBI hit from Dean increased the lead to 10 runs. Seeing three Guatemala pitchers in the inning, the U.S. added two more runs after Scaglione collected an RBI double and Fox contributed her second RBI hit of the inning.
The hot bats of the U.S. failed to return, however, as Guatemala bounced back shutting down the U.S. the rest of the game with nine consecutive outs.
A perfect outing from the circle, Keiter completed two innings with three strikeouts before Harre closed the last three innings, capturing the win, with three strikeouts. Dean, Scaglione and Fox each contributed two hits in the victory.
After completing pool play, Dean remains on top of the stat sheet batting .474 with two triples and nine RBI. Duran is behind her hitting .381 with three RBI. The U.S. has outscored its opponents 25-4 in tournament play while the pitching staff has combined for a 0.30 ERA.