LIMA, Peru –– The U-18 Women’s National Team (WNT) improved to 4-0 at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Women’s Softball World Cup after a narrow 1-0 win over No. 5 Puerto Rico. A solid performance from both squads, the game remained knotted 0-0 through seven innings with the U.S. plating its lone run of the game in the top of eighth before shutting down the Puerto Rico offense in the bottom of the frame to seal the win.
The pitching staff of Valerie Cagle (Yorktown, Va.) and Keagan Rothrock (Whiteland, Ind.) kept the Puerto Rico offense off the board through eight innings while totaling 15 strikeouts and allowing a low of two hits. Cagle got the start in the circle for the U.S. before Rothrock came in for relief in the bottom of the fifth and retired 10 of the 11 batters she faced with a strikeout to lead Team USA to the victory.
Team USA got the bats going early in the game with Erin Coffel (Bremen, Ind.) and Violet Zavodnik (Murrieta, Calif.) sending back-to-back singles through the infield in the top of the first, but a fly out would leave them stranded. Cagle and the U.S. defense came out strong in the bottom of the frame with a 1-2-3 inning featuring two strikeouts and a ground out to send the U.S. back to the plate. A leadoff single from Cagle followed by a base hit from Megan Grant (San Bruno, Calif.) would look to start something in the top of the second but a sac-bunt and two fly outs would end the at-bat. The Eagles remained solid on defense through the bottom half of the inning with Zavodnik tracking down a line drive in centerfield followed by a ground out and a strikeout to retire the side.
Puerto Rico managed to get their first baserunner of the game in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out single, but Cagle fired back with a strikeout to keep her at bay. A single from Avery Hodge (Richmond, Texas) and a hit-by-pitch from Kinsey Fiedler (Lee’s Summit, Mo.) would look to end the silence for the U.S. in the top of the fifth, but a stellar play by the Puerto Rico leftfielder would record the third out of the inning. The Puerto Rico offense came within 60-feet of home plate in the bottom of the frame after a leadoff single and a two-out walk put runners on first and second. A pitching change for Team USA brought Rothrock into the circle before a walk loaded the bases, but a fly ball to Zavodnik in centerfield would end the threat and keep the game scoreless through five innings.
The U.S. put another pair of runners on in the top of the sixth with an error and a walk but were unable to muster any runs while Rothrock returned the favor in the bottom of the inning with three-straight strikeouts to stifle the Puerto Rico offense. Hodge looked to light a spark for Team USA in the top of the seventh after leading off the inning with a single followed by a stolen base to put a runner in scoring position with no outs. A sac-bunt from Keely Williams (Cibolo, Texas) quickly advanced Hodge to third but a ground out and a diving play from the Puerto Rico centerfielder ended the at-bat. Rothrock continued dealing in the bottom of the frame, striking out the next three batters in order to send the game into extra innings.
The U.S. started the top of the eighth with Coffel on second as the International Tie Breaker (ITB) runner before Zavodnik sent a sac-fly to center field to advance her to third. With the go-ahead run on third, Maci Bergeron (Rayne, La.) sent a sac-fly to the outfield to allow Coffel to tag up and speed home for the 1-0 lead. Cagle looked to continue the offense with a single up the middle, but a fly out ended the at-bat. With a Puerto Rico runner placed on second, Rothrock proved to be unfazed as she recorded three-straight K’s – her 10th strikeout in a row – to earn Team USA the 1-0 thriller.
The Red, White and Blue will return to action tomorrow, Dec. 9 against No. 10 Netherlands before additional contests against No. 30 Peru (Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. ET) and No. 6 Chinese Taipei (Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. ET). Live stats will be available through USASoftball.com while the WBSC has provided live streaming, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Opening Round will conclude on Saturday, Dec. 11 with the top two teams in the standings after the 28-game round-robin advancing to the World Championship gold medal game on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. ET. The third and fourth place teams will go head-to-head for the bronze medal on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here to view the full schedule.
Due to the postponement of the WBSC U-18 World Cup, which was originally scheduled to take place in August 2020, the WBSC extended the age eligibility to allow athletes who were eligible for the 2020 event with the opportunity to participate in the rescheduled event this year. With the extended age eligibility, the 2021 USA Softball U-18 Women’s National Team roster includes one member of the 2019 U-17 Pan American Gold Medal team, six current NCAA Division I student-athletes and 12 committed and/or signed NCAA Division I student athletes – four of which also advanced to the JWNT Selection Trials through the USA Softball High Performance Program (HPP). Click here to view the 2021 USA Softball U-18 Women's National Team roster.