CLEARWATER, Fla. – The bats continued to remain hot for the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) as the team picked up another pair of wins on the “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by Major League Baseball (MLB). Taking the field against their first ranked NCAA Division I softball opponents this season, the U.S. posted a 9-1 (five innings) win over Baylor before closing the day with a 7-0 shutout win over No. 16 Kentucky at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Leadoff Classic.
USA 9, Baylor 1 (five innings)
Hannah Flippen (San Diego, Calif.) drove in three runs in a perfect game at the plate as she helped lift Team USA to a 9-1 (five innings) win over Baylor. Despite giving up the first run of the “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by MLB, the U.S. pitchers continued to work in the circle as the duo of Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) and Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) limited Baylor to just two hits while striking out six.
Carda got the start in the circle and worked her way out of a one-out single with a popup and strikeout to bring the home team to the plate. Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) set the tone in the leadoff spot by walking, before stealing second, and scoring on a single from Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.). A double from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) looked to continue the offense, but a double play and popup ended the at-bat.
Baylor responded in the top of the second, taking advantage of a one out walk, sac bunt and passed ball. With a runner at third, a single to center drove in the run, tying the game at 1-1. That score held until Team USA took the lead for good in the bottom of the third. McCleney tripled with a ball off the right/center field wall and scored on an infield single from Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.), putting the U.S. up 2-1.
Osterman entered the circle in the top of the fourth inning, quickly dealing three strikeouts in the fourth and fifth to hold the one-run lead. Breaking the game open in the bottom of the fifth, Team USA drove in seven runs after three-consecutive walks loaded the bases. A sac fly from Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.), a double from Flippen, her second of the game, and McCleney’s second extra-base hit of the contest put the U.S. just one run away from the run-rule. The sixth walk by the Baylor pitching staff in the at-bat loaded the bases for the fourth time before a wild pitch allowed the final run to cross the plate to end the game via the run-rule.
McCleney was nearly unstoppable at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBI and two runs scored while Flippen was 2-for-2 with a walk and three runs driven in. Osterman fanned five batters in two innings while Carda struck out one batter in three innings.
USA 7, Kentucky 0
Jumping out to an early lead against No. 16 Kentucky, the U.S. picked up their fourth shutout win of the tour. Haylie, extra-base, McCleney continued her hitting streak with a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate while Aguilar drove in four.
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) came out firing in the top of the first by striking out the side. A walk to McCleney and misplayed ball put runners on the corners for Aguilar, who ripped a triple to the right field fence. Arioto brought Aguilar in with a sac fly to center, putting the U.S. up 3-0 early.
Carda started off the bottom of the second inning with a single to put the leadoff on base and back-to-back singles from Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) and McCleney forced a Kentucky error that allowed Carda to score. Aguilar picked up her fourth RBI of the game with a single up the middle, giving the Red, White and Blue a six-run edge.
Kentucky picked up their first base runner of the game in the top of the third after an errant throw, but Abbott fired back with a strikeout to keep the runner from advancing. Team USA drove in their final run of the game in the bottom of the fourth after McCleney’s second triple of the day and a ground ball allowed her to easily score from third.
Abbott dealt an additional three strikeout inning before Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) entered the circle and used her defense to bring Kentucky to their final at-bat of the game. The Wildcats continued swinging, singling to start the top of the seventh and a one-out walk put two on. A single to McCleney in center advanced the runners, but a perfect play at the plate ended the game in exciting fashion. After Kentucky sent the runner home, McCleney fired the ball in to Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) behind the dish to get the final out of the game.
Abbott struck out 11 in five innings of work with no hits allowed while Garcia closed out the final two innings.
At the plate, McCleney has had a multi-hit performance in all but one game she’s played thus far on the tour. Leading the team with eight runs scored, McCleney has tripled three times while doubling twice to amass a 1.231 slugging percentage in four games played.
Team USA’s final game of the NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic is against Texas State, where Osterman serves as an Assistant Coach, on Sunday, February 9.
Fans at home can follow along with the action at USASoftball.com.