Izumi-ku, Sendai, Japan — Behind the hot bat of USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) veteran Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.), Team USA claimed a 5-1 win over Japan the Amateur Softball Association (ASA)/USA Softball announced today. Arioto went 2-for-3, driving in three runs while sending out a two-run home run in top of the fifth inning to help the U.S. clinch the series finale in the USA vs Japan All-Star Series.
“What great crowds that Tokyo and Sendai had for this three-game series,” said Assistant Coach Howard Dobson (Orange, Texas). “Today we got the big inning and we fought all the way to the end. It’s always a back-and-forth game between us and Japan. Their pitchers did a great job today and our team was able to get the big hits and the big innings.”
The U.S. quickly loaded the bases in the top of the first inning as Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) led off with a double before Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) followed with a walk. A sac bunt by Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) advanced the runners a bag, and a walk to Arioto put runners on each base. Japan’s Sayuri Yamane was able to get out of the jam, however, as her defense recorded a fly out and a ground out to end the U.S. threat. Team USA’s Jaclyn Traina (Naples, Fla.) came out throwing heat in the circle, issuing a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) in left field to retire the side in order in the bottom half of the first inning.
With the game scoreless through two innings of play, the U.S. took the lead in the top of the third inning. Stewart and McCleney got the offense going again, putting the leadoff batters on base for the Red, White and Blue. With runners at first and second, Aguilar was able to beat out a bunt for a single to load the bases. During the bunt, Stewart utilized her speed to swipe home for the first run of the inning, with McCleney and Aguilar each advancing one bag on the throw to put both runners in scoring position. Arioto then picked up her first RBI of the game with a single to left field to plate McCleney. Bianka Bell (Tampa, Fla.) pushed across the third run of the inning with an RBI single to right field.
Japan responded in the bottom half of the frame, pushing across one run after Natsuko Sugama led with a single. A bunt and a fly out quickly retired the next two batters, but a defensive miscue on a fly ball to the outfield allowed Sugama to cross the plate to close in on the U.S. lead.
The U.S. padded its lead in the top of the fifth inning when Arioto blasted a ball over the center field fence with a runner on. With the U.S. up 5-1, Traina kept the Japan offense at bay through the fifth inning before Kelly Barnhill (Marietta, Ga.) entered in relief in the bottom of the sixth. Barnhill continued Traina’s strong performance in the circle, keeping Japan to just two hits through the final two innings of play.
Traina earned the win for the U.S., issuing six strikeouts over five innings of work while allowing just two hits. For Japan, Yamane suffered the loss, issuing three hits to the U.S. while allowing three runs.
Up next for the U.S. is the World Cup of Softball XI, which returns to the ASA Hall of Fame Complex – OGE Energy Field – INTEGRIS Field for the first time since 2013. Tickets are available for purchase, and can be found at ASAUSASoftball.com.
About ASA/USA Softball
Founded in 1933, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA)/USA Softball is the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, ASA/USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 70 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 165,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2.2 million. ASA/USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won nine World Championship titles as well as claimed eight World Cup of Softball titles. For more information about ASA/USA Softball, please visit http://www.asausasoftball.com.