USA advances to playoffs with perfect record

Sept. 02, 2006, 2:23 p.m. (ET)
USA advances to playoffs with perfect 7-0 record
Beijing, China---The USA Softball Women’s National Team defeated South Africa, 10-0, in five innings to advance into the playoff rounds of the XI ISF Women’s World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record and as the top seed from Pool A. The USA will continue its quest for a sixth consecutive World Championship on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CT against No. 2 seed Australia.

Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) was superb offensively for the U.S. going 3-for-4 at the plate with three stolen bases, two runs scored and an RBI. She got things started in the first inning with an infield single and then swiped second. A single by Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) scored Lowe for the first run of the game. With one out, Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) doubled to left field to plate Watley and a 2-0 lead.

It was Lowe again who got things started in the second inning. With two outs, Lowe reached on a bunt single and then stole second once again. Watley came through with a single to center field that scored Lowe for a 3-0 advantage.

Bustos led off the third inning with her second double of the game, moved to third on a groundout by Jenny Topping (Whittier, Calif.) and scored on a fielder’s choice by Andrea Duran (Salem, Calif.). A single by Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.) moved Duran to second and a single to left field by Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.) brought her home. Lowe drove in the final run of the inning with a single to right field to increase the U.S. lead to 6-0.

Alicia Hollowell (Suisin, Calif.), making her first start in a World Championship, kept South Africa hitless until the fourth when shortstop Candice Stephens singled to right center. Two consecutive ground outs kept the shutout intact and Hollowell ended the game with six strikeouts.

The U.S. picked up the runs it needed in the bottom of the fourth to end the game in five innings due to the run rule. Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) and Bustos reached on back-to-back errors by the South African defense that had been perfect in the game. Topping followed with a double to left field that scored Mendoza and moved Bustos to third.
A sacrifice fly by Duran plated Bustos and a double by Amanda Freed (Cypress, Calif.) scored Topping. Galindo finished things off with a double of her own to score Freed and give the U.S. a 10-0 win.

The U.S. offense exploded for 12 hits in the game including four doubles. Bustos, Watley and Galindo put up two hits, following Lowe’s three. Watley and Galindo joined Duran in the RBI category with two apiece.

With pool play complete the U.S. now turns its focus to the playoffs where it will face Australia, the only team to beat the U.S. in World Championship competition since 1982. Australia beat the U.S. 2-1 in 12 innings during the second round of the playoffs at the 1998 World Championships in Fujinomiya, Japan.