USA defeats Cuba to move to Championship Game
San Juan, Puerto Rico – The USA Softball Women’s National Team completed round robin action of the Mayor's Cup Thursday afternoon with a 4-1 win over Cuba. With the win, USA secured the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, which were originally scheduled to start this evening but were postponed until Friday due to rain. In a turn of events due to the rain, No. 3 seed Canada will play No. 4 seed Puerto Rico for third place, while USA will face off against No. 2 seed Cuba at 1 pm EST Friday afternoon.
Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) got the start in the circle for USA and retired the first three batters faced with a strikeout, a pop out and a groundout to shortstop Taylor Thom (Cedar Park, Texas). The U.S. would start things early in the bottom of the first as Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) got on base with a walk. Two batters later, Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) sent a single to right field to put runners on first and third. Chavanne would then score on a double steal to put the U.S. up 1-0 entering the second inning.
Another three batter inning for Moore brought the U.S. back to the plate in the bottom of the second with Nicole Hudson (Webb City, Mo.) leading off for the Red, White and Blue. With a 1-1 count, Hudson sent a shot over right field fence, recording her first home run of the 2013 season and putting the U.S. up 2-0.
Cuba would get two runners on base in the top of the third inning as back-to-back singles at the bottom of the lineup put runners on first and second with one out. The U.S. defense kept a run from scoring though, as Moore got the next two batters to groundout and bring USA back to the plate. Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Chavanne started off the top of the third with a pair of singles. Chidester then sent a deep ball to center field for a sac-fly to score Moultrie and extend the U.S. lead to 3-0.
Cuba would put a run on the board in the top of the fourth inning when Yanitza Aviles started off the inning with a double. A single by Maritza Toledo put runners on the corners, and Yarisleidis Casanova would hit into a fielder's choice to plate Toledo and prevent the shutout. Moore would retire the next batter with a groundout before Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) entered for relief with two outs and one runner on base. Hawkins then retired her first batter faced with a strikeout to end Cuba's rally.
No additional runs were scored until the bottom of the sixth inning when Thom hit a sac-fly to right field to score Rhea Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.), who pinch ran for Hudson who reached base on a single. With the Thom sac-fly, USA would close out the game after the top of the seventh with the 4-1 win.
“It's great to play games against teams we haven't faced yet this year,” said Chidester. “Everyone on the team has come together even more and it's a lot of fun to get back out on the field with these girls. We're hoping the weather holds up so we can get some more games in before the qualifier.”
From the circle, Moore earned the win with one strikeout, four hits and one run scored through three and two-third innings pitched. Hawkins completed the final three and a third innings, issuing eight strikeouts and allowing one hit.
USA will face Cuba again for the second time in as many days Friday at 1 pm EST for the Gold Medal Game. Due to the weather delays, the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds Canada and Puerto Rico will face off for third place, while the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded USA and Cuba move to the Championship Game. Live stats and online streaming is available during the Mayor's Cup, and links can be found by visiting USASoftball.com.