CLEARWATER, Fla. – The USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) continued their “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by Major League Baseball (MLB), dominance with a pair of shutout wins at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Leadoff Classic. Combining for 20 strikeouts in two games, the U.S. offense also came alive as they posted 15 runs in their two victories.
“It’s nice when your pitching staff can come out and give your team an opportunity to relax,” said WNT Head Coach, Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla./Head Coach at South Florida). “Monica threw the ball really well and Ally came in and worked on some sequences and different pitches. Then to have Cat come out and be very consistent and Rachel work on different pitches showed that it was another really good night for getting better. I was pretty happy with the focus at the plate tonight. We squared up on a lot of balls. We’re getting more comfortable as it goes, and then if we get comfortable, we get good. When we get good, we have a chance to be great and hopefully that occurs right before we leave for Tokyo.”
USA 4, Mississippi State 0
Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) drove in a pair of runs in a 2-for-3 outing as the WNT rolled past Mississippi State 4-0 in their first contest of the day. The contest also marked the first time this season for a home run off the bats of the WNT as Taylor Edwards (Murrieta, Calif.) sent out a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth.
The game was scoreless through the first two frames until Team USA took the lead in the bottom of the third with a pair of runs. A walk to Edwards put the leadoff runner on for Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.), who doubled to bring Edwards home before scoring herself on a double by Aguilar.
Mississippi State got a pair of base runners on in the top of the fifth inning and nearly scored, but a routine play at the plate kept the Bulldogs off the board. With a leadoff double, followed by a single, Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) fired the ball in from left field to Edwards, who made the play at the plate to quiet the Mississippi State rally attempt.
Edwards started the bottom of the fifth inning off with a bang, squaring up on a 2-0 pitch to blast a solo home run and extend the lead to three runs. A single by Reed continued the offense and Reed swiped second to put a runner in scoring position. A single to right field off the bat of Aguilar added the final run of the game, putting the Red, White and Blue up by four.
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) struck out 10 batters in the contest, allowing just two hits in five innings while Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) fanned one batter in two innings of work.
USA 11, Illinois 0 (five innings)
The U.S. offense came alive in an 11-0 (five innings) win over Illinois in their final game of the day. Bubba Nickles (Merced, Calif.) drove in three runs for Team USA in the win while four U.S. batters recorded multiple hits.
Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) got the start in the circle and issued three strikeouts to bring the potent U.S. offense to the plate. A leadoff single by Reed and sac bunt by Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) set up Nickles, who homered to make it 2-0.
The offense continued with back-to-back singles from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) and a double by Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) drove in another run. A ground ball to the right side allowed Garcia to score, putting Team USA up by four runs.
The hits continued in the bottom of the second inning after Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) walked and scored on a double by Reed. Nickles notched her third RBI of the contest with a fly ball to left field and another back-to-back outing by Arioto and Garcia with singles drove in the seventh run for Team USA. A ground out, single and bases-loaded walk brought in the final runs of the contest for the U.S.
A leadoff single by Illinois in the top of the fourth inning was all the offense mustered throughout the remainder of the game.
Osterman dealt four strikeouts in two innings while Garcia struck out five in the final three innings. In addition to Nickles, Moultrie and Munro had a multi-RBI game, each driving in two.
Team USA returns 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. A 12 p.m. ET game against Texas State on Sunday, February 9 closes out the tournament for the U.S.
Fans at home can follow along with the action at USASoftball.com.