Relive the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia!
Riding a 100-game win streak, the United States entered the 2000 Olympic Games as a clear-cut favorite. The players and coaches of the U.S. National Team knew that the remaining teams in the eight-team field had improved since 1996, but it was yet to be determined just how much ground the programs had covered. Although some facets of the U.S. Team had changed, one aspect of the team that remained was the strength of the U.S. pitching staff, comprised of Lisa Fernandez, Michele Smith, Lori Harrigan, Christa Williams and Danielle Henderson.
In the Olympic opener, Harrigan became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Olympic competition as the U.S. rolled past Canada 6-0. Bustos stepped it up in the second game, going 5-for-7, including three home runs, to lead the U.S. in a 3-0 win against Cuba.
Games three, four and five had different outcomes as U.S. fans watched the Americans suffer through their first three-game losing streak in International competition. The U.S. pitching staff was on the mark, compiling 62 strike outs, 11 hits and five walks throughout the 38 innings of play. A 2-1 loss to Japan, a 2-0 defeat by China and a 2-1 loss to Australia meant that the U.S. might not even make medal-round let alone defend the Gold.
The Americans remained tough, however, and moved the ball back to their court by picking up a 2-0 win against New Zealand and another 6-0 victory against Italy. As the U.S. pushed through to the meal rounds, they soon faced the opponents who had beaten them in round-robin play. The Americans soon faced the opponents who had defeated them in round-robin play and they made it their mission to ensure they received a different end result. Stacey Nuveman helped push the U.S. past China, 3-0 with a game winning home run in the tenth inning, followed by a 1-0 win over the Australians.
Team USA now faced an unbeaten Japan team, the final obstacle before claiming back-to-back Olympic Gold Medals. Fernandez got the start and pitched a one-hitter before Reika Utsugi drove a home run just over the glove of U.S. center fielder Laura Berg. They U.S. would not stay down, and Nuveman pulled through for the Americans with an RBI single. Now tied, Berg had a chance to redeem herself. With pinch-runner Jennifer McFalls at second, Berg drove a ball to deep left field. Japan’s Shiori Koseki covered great ground, but started to fall backwards in the rain-slicked grass. Koseki caught the ball for a second before dropping it to the turf, allowing McFalls to run home to seal the United States as the 2000 Olympic Gold Medalists.
The winning wasn’t pretty and at certain times the U.S. games weren’t pretty either, but that made the gold medal even more special. “This one means a lot more to me, because we had to do so much more to win it,” said Fernandez. Ralph Raymond, the National Team’s head coach agreed. “It’s always sweeter the second time around.”