USA Softball at World Championships

Aug. 27, 2006, 2:01 p.m. (ET)
USA Softball set to open play at World Championships 
BEIJING, China – After several days of practice and sightseeing, the USA Softball Women’s National Team is ready to do what it came to Beijing for – compete for their sixth-consecutive ISF World Championship title. The seven-time World Champions joined 15 other teams on Sunday morning for the Opening Ceremonies of the XI ISF Women’s World Championship. Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), who is making her fourth appearance in an ISF Women’s World Championship, was the flag bearer for the USA team as it marched into opening ceremonies.
The USA begins pool play competition on Sunday, August 27 at 2:00 AM (CST) against Italy, the European champions. 
Team USA last faced Italy in the opening game of the 2004 Olympics, where the US handed Team Italy a 7-0 loss in five innings. During the 2002 World Championships, the USA opened the competition against Italy and captured a 2-0 win. USA shortstop Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) drove in the winning runs with a single. The Red, White and Blue are 5-0 in World Championship play against Italy, outscoring the Italians 38-2.
In his first appearance at the 2002 World Championships, head coach Mike Candrea led his team to its seventh World Championships title with a perfect 10-0 record including a 1-0 win in the championship game over Japan. Eight members of the 2006 squad will be making repeat appearances at the World Championships including Berg who is making her fourth appearance, which ties her for the most appearances in a World Championship. Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.), Amanda Freed (Cypress, Calif.), Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.), Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) and Watley will be competing in their second World Championship.
The USA Softball Women's National Team was a perfect 6-0 in its first international event of the season as they brought the II World Cup of Softball Championship trophy back to the United States with a 5-2 win over Japan in the title game. The USA defeated five teams that will be competing in the World Championships. The Red, White and Blue outscored their opponents 59-3 and led the tournament with a team batting average of .453. During World Cup competition, Team USA combined for 73 hits with 20 extra base hits while the pitching staff allowed only 17 hits in 34 innings and two earned runs.
The USA is 96-9 in World Championship play with only one loss in the past five World Championships. The last loss came in 1998 versus Australia, a game that went 12 innings ending with a 2-1 win for the Aussies.
The top four finishers at the XI ISF World Championship will secure a berth into the 2008 Olympics and will be seeded in the order they finish. The official website for this event is