Brampton, Ont. — A series of clutch hitting performances helped the United States advance to the Gold Medal Game of the 2013 International Softball Federation (ISF) Junior Women’s World Championship (JWWC) in Brampton, Ontario, Canada the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. Team USA defeated Japan 4-0 to move on to the Gold Medal Game, which will be played at 2 p.m. EST tomorrow. The U.S., who is the only undefeated team left in the JWWC, will face the winner of the Bronze Medal matchup between Japan and Australia.
“We came out on fire and ready to play today,” said Head Coach Tairia Flowers. “We had a couple innings where we played a little too relaxed, but we had some clutch hits when it was time. Cheridan had another great performance in the circle, and our defense made some key plays. All those things added up and everyone worked together to pull out the win. We still haven’t played our best softball yet, so I’m really excited to get these girls back out on the field to see what we are truly capable of.”
It took some time for the U.S. offense to get things going, as the top of the lineup was retired in order to start the game. Japan would get a base runner in the bottom of the first on a hit-by-pitch with two outs, but U.S. pitcher Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) retired the next batter with a strikeout. In the second inning, Sierra Romero (Murrieta, Calif.) hit a shot down the left field line, recording her third double of the JWWC, however a fly out to center and a groundout ended the offensive threat.
Both sides would add a couple runners in the third inning, but failed to capitalize. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Red, White and Blue put together a series of clutch hits to score their first run of the game. Emily Crane (Troy, Mo.) started the inning with a double, but a failed bunt attempt kept her on the bag with one out. A single by Romero put two base runners on for Lauren Young (Anaheim, Calif.) with two outs. Young then hit a shot up the middle to score Crane and put the U.S. up 1-0.
Another two runs crossed the plate in the fifth, starting with Danica Mercado (Temecula, Calif.) scoring on Crane double. Mysha Sataraka (Honolulu, Hawaii) then plated Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) with a sac-fly to push the lead to 3-0.
It was a quiet sixth inning as both squads were retired in order. The U.S. would add one more run in the top of the seventh when Sierra Lawrence (Snellville, Ga.) hit a shot to the fence to reach second base. McCleney then brought her home with a double, making the score 4-0.
The U.S. defense continued to shine as several key performances helped secure the victory for Team USA. In the bottom of the second inning, McCleney prevented a rally for Japan with a diving catch to end the inning. The game also ended with a flawless double play as Sataraka connected with first baseman Young for an out, who then returned it back to Sataraka to throw out Japan’s base runner Yuna Aoyagi to end the game.
Hawkins pitched the full frame for the Red, White and Blue, improving her tournament record to 4-0. She allowed one hit in her performance, a single by Aoyagi in the seventh. Hawkins struck out eight, bringing her total to 29 strike outs.
“It was a great result for us as we faced Japan for the first time,” said Haylie McCleney. “We handled the pressure really well. We started out a little shaky, but we came through in the end and got a couple of key hits and great pitching. We know that was a really big win, but we’ve still got another big game to play. We can’t wait to play in the Championship Game and to get the opportunity to play for a Gold Medal. It’s something we’ve all dreamed of.”
Team USA has played in each of the seven previous Championship Games held, defeating China for the inaugural title in 1987, losing to Japan in 1991, defeating Japan in 1995 and losing to Japan in 1999 and 2003 before reclaiming the top spot from Japan in 2007 and 2011.Finals- Sunday (July 7)
Live stats for all USA games and live streaming will be available via USASoftball.com.