USA Softball advances to Japan Cup final

Nov. 18, 2006, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
USA Softball advances to Japan Cup final
Yokohama, Japan---The USA Softball Women’s National Team swept a double-header on Friday at 2006 Japan Cup to advance into the finals for the fourth consecutive year. The U.S. defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, in its opening game before handing arch-rival Japan, 8-4, in the nightcap.
The Netherlands was up to the challenge of facing the United States - the world’s top ranked team. Kristi DeVries held the powerful U.S. offense scoreless through four innings but in the fifth the Red, White and Blue put together a hit barrage that netted two runs.
Amanda Freed (Cypress, Calif.) got things started in fifth inning with a leadoff single. Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.) and Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) followed Freed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) came through once again with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Freed for a 1-0 lead. Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.) added the final run of the game with a single that scored Lappin.
Jennie Ritter (Dexter, Mich.) picked up the shutout win for the U.S. after allowing only two hits in five innings of work while striking out five. Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) collected a save by working two innings where she didn’t allow a hit while striking out two of the six batters she faced.
In its final game of round-robin play, the U.S. held on for an 8-4 win over world silver medalist Japan. It appeared the U.S. had the game under control leading 4-0 after the fifth inning but Japan came storming back in the top of the sixth with a grand slam that tied the game at 4-4.
With the momentum clearly in favor of Japan, the U.S. went to work in the bottom of the sixth inning. Watley got things going with a lead off single and moved into scoring position on a single by Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.). A walk to Mendoza loaded the bases for the USA’s Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.), who is considered one of the most feared hitters in the game. With no place to put her, Japan’s Masubuchi came with a 1-1 pitch that Bustos sent over 300 feet for a grand slam and an 8-4 win.
Alicia Hollowell (Suisun, Calif.) got the start for the U.S. in the circle and was solid for five innings but Japan caught up with her in the sixth and tagged her for four runs. Ritter entered the game in relief in the sixth and shutdown the Japan rally before closing out the game in the seventh to collect her second win of the day.
Bustos was awesome offensively for the U.S. going 3-for-4 with a grand slam and six RBI. Jenny Topping (Whittier, Calif.) was 2-for-3 with a solo home run and two RBI, while Galindo collected three hits in the game.
The U.S. will now face Japan in the championship game on Saturday at 10 p.m. CST.