By Blythe Lawrence | Aug. 05, 2018, 11:26 a.m. (ET)
Michelle Moultrie bats against Mexico at the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship on Aug. 3, 2018 in Chiba, Japan.

 

The U.S. team sailed past New Zealand 7-0 in five innings Sunday to remain undefeated in group play at the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship in Narashino, Japan.

Hours after Olympic silver medalist Monica Abbott engineered a four-inning no-hitter against the Netherlands, the Americans turned in their third straight shutout as Kelly Barnhill, a rising senior at University of Florida, and Rachel Garcia, a rising junior at UCLA, combined on a two-hitter.

The victory allowed the U.S. to keep pace with Puerto Rico at 4-0 in Group A.

Team USA didn’t waste time getting on the board. Janie Reed (Oregon ’15) and Valerie Arioto (California ‘12) scoring on hits by Arioto and Michelle Moultrie (Florida ’12), respectively, in the bottom of the first for a 2-0 lead. Kirsti Merritt (Florida ’16) made it 4-0 in the second inning with a two-run homer.

Reed doubled home Sahvanna Jaquish (LSU ’17) in the fourth to make it 5-0, and Moultrie ended the game when she singled home two more runs in the fifth. Arioto had three of the Americans’ nine hits, while Moultrie had two hits and three RBIs.

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Barnhill recorded three strikeouts and allowed only two hits over four-plus innings, while Garcia came on in relief in the fifth and retired the side.

The defending world champions have allowed only two runs so far in the tournament, both coming in the 5-2 opening win over Mexico on Friday. The Americans easily defeated Chinese Taipei 7-0 Saturday.

At stake in Japan is not only a world title, but also a quota spot to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where softball will be included for the first time in 12 years. Host Japan is the defending Olympic champion from Beijing 2008, the last time the sport was contested at the Games. The United States is the defending silver medalist after having won gold at three straight Games.

Team USA next faces the Philippines on Monday and will take on South Africa on Tuesday and Puerto Rico on Wednesday to conclude group play.

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.