TAMPA, Fla. – Drawing 1,267 fans for a showdown between hometown favorites, USF, the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) shutout the Bulls in their “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by Major League Baseball (MLB), opener. The USF pitching staff, which is guided by former WNT great and USF interim Head Coach Jessica Moore, held the Red, White and Blue to only five hits with Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) and Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) each picking up two hits.
Click here for a box score from the game
“It was a great start for both programs tonight,” said WNT Head Coach, Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla./Head Coach at South Florida), after taking on his college program. “We’re trying to get the rust off a lot of things, but if you are a fan of pitching, tonight was the night. It was really cool to see all the Team USA pitchers attack the zone and then Georgina Corrick, who is a world caliber pitcher, put zeroes against us and worked the zone. It just shows you how bright Coach Moore is, who was a great Team USA athlete and is a great coach. I thought we had some really good at-bats tonight and hit some hard balls, but they were just right at USF and they made some great plays. Overall, it was a really great night of softball.”
Team USA wasted no time in getting the offense going as McCleney led off the game with an infield single before moving to second on a single to right field by Stewart. A walk to Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) loaded the bases before a passed ball allowed McCleney to score and make it a 1-0 ballgame.
Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) got the start in the circle for the U.S. and quickly issued two strikeouts before a fly ball dropped in for a single. Osterman fired back with her third strikeout of the inning, however, keeping the runner at first and a one-run lead.
The U.S. put a pair of runners on base in their next two at-bats but failed to bring anything else across the plate while Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) and Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) kept USF off the board through the bottom of the third.
The top of the fourth inning brought in another run for the U.S. after Dejah Mulipola (Garden Grove, Calif.) led off with a single. A fielder’s choice by Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) kept a runner at first base until Reed stole second and moved to third on a ground ball from McCleney. Stewart ripped a fly ball to the right field fence on a hitter’s count, a double to plate Reed, but was caught attempting to take an extra base for the third out of the at-bat.
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) entered the circle in the bottom of the fourth, issuing back-to-back strikeouts before a single found its way to the outfield. A strikeout by Abbott ended the fourth with Team USA up by two.
Team USA added their final run of the contest in the top of the seventh after McCleney once again got the offense rolling as the leadoff hitter with a triple. A wild pitch allowed McCleney to score from third, putting the Red, White and Blue at a three-run lead.
Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.), who entered in the bottom of the sixth inning, retired USF in order in their final at-bat with three strikeouts, earning Team USA the 3-0, shutout win.
Team USA will return to action this weekend at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic, presented by Rawlings. Team USA will play in five exhibition games against NCAA Division I programs starting with a 6 p.m. ET contest against Mississippi State and 8 p.m. ET game against Illinois on Friday, February 7. The U.S. will return to the field for a 3 p.m. ET matchup against Baylor and a 5:30 p.m. nightcap against No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday, February 8 before a 12 p.m. ET game against Texas State on Sunday, February 9 to close out the tournament.
Fans at home can follow along with the action at USASoftball.com.