The 2010-11 USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team started the III Pan American Championship (18-Under) in Bogota, Colombia, with pitchers Dallas Escobedo (Glendale, Ariz.) and Lauren Haeger (Phoenix, Ariz.) combining for a no hitter against the host country. Team USA beat Colombia 9-1 in five innings to kick off the qualification tournament for next year’s International Softball Federation (ISF) Junior Women’s World Championship in Cape Town, South Africa.
“It felt really good,” said Lauren Chamberlain (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.), who, like her 16-teammates, is making her debut in international competition. “It was really weird being out there, looking down and seeing that USA on your chest. It has always been a dream for all of us. I think we really came together for that game. It was a solid game. It was a good start to the tournament.”
After scoring one run in the top of the second, from a Kourtney Savarola (Arnold, Md.) sacrifice fly that allowed Shelby Pendley (Albuquerque, N.M.) to cross the plate, the Red, White and Blue broke a 1-0 game open in the fourth, scoring eight runs. While Team USA had four hits, they also benefited from a Colombian defense that committed three errors.
“It took a few innings for the team to find their rhythm but once they became comfortable, they really went to work,” Head Coach Karen Johns (Starkville, Miss.) said. “I am incredibly proud of how they performed their first time ever playing in the USA jersey. It was amazing to see Dallas and Lauren combine to no-hit Colombia, who had a really enthusiastic crowd behind them. Everyone did a nice job of backing them up. It was a real team effort.”
The rally started with an Amber Freeman (Lakewood, Calif.) single that plated Pendley, who singled to second base and advanced on an error. With the game at 4-0 later in the fourth, third baseman Chamberlain hit a home run to center field, scoring Kylee Lahners (Laguna Hills, Calif.), who reached on an error.
“I was sprinting my butt off to first but hoping for a home run,” said Chamberlain, who noted the Colombian crowd was the loudest she had ever played in front of. “I was just thinking solid contact. The center fielder knocked over the fence [trying to catch the ball] and it happened to go out.”
Madison Shipman (Valencia, Calif.) also reached on an error then stole second. When Cheyenne Cordes (Fairfield, Calif.) reached on an error, Shipman scored, making it 7-0. Chelsea Goodacre (Temecula, Calif.) singled to right field to bring in two more, Pendley, who walked, and Cordes.
Escobedo started in the circle for the Americans. In her four innings of work, she faced the minimum batters, striking out six, including five in a row. She was relieved in the fifth by Haeger, who struck out three while walking one.
“It felt great to play in the jersey,” Escobedo said. “I’ve looked up to everyone who has ever worn this jersey. And I’ve pitched against the top people in the world who have worn this jersey. Now I’m the one that is on the team. I am very pleased and thankful that I got the chance to play.”
Colombia’s only run of the game came in the top of the fifth when Goodacre made a throwing error to second base, attempting to catch a runner stealing. It was the second error of the game for the Red, White and Blue, the first allowed Luisa Rodriguez to reach base in the fourth.
The Americans face Peru Monday at Unidad Deportiva El Salitre then take on Argentina Tuesday at Estadio Ecopetrol. Pool play continues through Thursday with the semi-final games and the Championship Game to be held Saturday.