USA opens ISF World Championship with 6-1 win over Italy
Beijing, China---The USA Softball Women’s National Team opened its pursuit of a sixth consecutive ISF World Championship with a 6-1 win over Italy. Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) picked up her first career win in a World Championship after going the distance and allowing only one unearned run.
“We were really ready to get started after being here for a few days so it was good to come out and play” said Head Coach Mike Candrea. “Cat threw a great game and our offense was able to put some runs on the board so now we just
have to go back, get some sleep and come back ready to play tomorrow.”
The speed at the top of the USA lineup paid off in the first inning as Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) and scored on a single by Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
After being shutout in the second inning, it was the top of the lineup that got things started again for the USA in the third inning. The speed of Watley and Mendoza forced Italy’s defense to falter as both reached on fielding errors. With runners on the corners Italy’s Kaithyin Gentile gunned down the speedy Mendoza as she attempted to steal second to record the first out of the inning.
With one out Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice when Italy tried to pick-off Watley at third. An intentional walk to Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) that loaded the bases did not pay off for Italy as Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) walked as well to score Watley. Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) followed with a double that looked as if it would score two but Nuveman was thrown out at home.
The USA took advantage of a pitching change and added two insurance runs in the fourth when Breana DeSanta came in to relieve starter Leslie Malerich. Mendoza laced an RBI single to right field to score Lowe who reached on a fielder’s choice and Bustos singled to left field to score Watley who reached on an error.
Back-to-back errors by the U.S. defense provided Italy with its only run of the game. Veronica Fontana reached to lead off the inning when Finch dropped the throw from second baseman Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.). After swiping second base, Fontana scored when Watley, attempting to throw her out on a fielder’s choice at third, hit her in the helmet and the ball rolled into left field.
The U.S. tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth when Duran singled in Mendoza who reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning.
Osterman was solid in her first World Championship appearance allowing only two hits while striking out 14. The 14 strikeouts are the most by a U.S. pitcher in World Championship competition since July 30, 1998 when Lisa Fernandez fanned 14 against Australia in the championship game.
“It felt really good to get the first game under our belts today,” said Osterman. “It was good to be on the mound for the first game and to have our offense put runs up early and often.”
Malerich took the loss for Italy after allowing three runs in three innings of work. DeSanta, who relieved Malerich in the fourth inning, also allowed three runs in three innings.
Mendoza, who led the U.S. earlier this year at the II World Cup of Softball with a batting average of .634 and 16 RBI, continued her dominance at the plate going 3-for-4 with two RBI against Italy. Finch recorded the only extra base hit of the game for the U.S. with a double in the third inning and Berg (2-for-3) was the only other U.S. player with more than one hit in the game.
The Red, White and Blue returns to action Sunday, August 27 at 11:30 p.m. CT against DPR Korea, who won their opener 3-0 over South Africa.
Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), making her fourth consecutive World Championship appearance, tied former teammates Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernandez for the U.S. record. She was the named flag bearer for the USA team as it marched into opening ceremonies Sunday morning at the ISF Women’s World Championship.
The USA has now won 13 consecutive games in World Championship competition dating back to July 30, 1998.
Mike Candrea continues to be unbeaten at the World Championships and is now 11-0 dating back to July 26, 2002.
On who has the best chance of winning the 2006 World Championships:
“It will take time this week to see who the best is. We have had the chance to see Japan, China, Canada and they are all good teams. It’s always challenging during the World Championships and its unlike any other tournament. We all know the teams here are very good and we just have to come out and do our best every game.
On defending World title and going for sixth-consecutive:
“We are obviously very excited to be here especially playing in an Olympic venue. All the teams are bringing their best which makes it an exciting event. This is definitely an event we look forward to especially since it is only hosted every four years and you get to compete for the World Championship title.”
On jet lag:
“We have had a few days here so the jet lag is getting better. Personally I am a tad off because I keep on waking up earlier. The second day was the worst but we have had some good practices here and some rest so we are ready to go.”
On playing Italy:
“It felt good to finally get going. It was also nice to play against a good team like Italy and get a win.”
On carrying flag
“It’s quite an honor in and of itself to represent our country. But it’s a special honor to be able to carry the flag the of the United States and lead my team into such a great event like the World Championships.”