Lima, PERU – After a tight defensive battle through six innings, the U-18 Women’s National Team (WNT) edged out No. 6 Chinese Taipei in a thrilling 1-0 walk-off victory to claim the 2021 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 World Championship title. Today’s win marks the fourth-straight World Championship gold medal from the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team (JWNT) program, having won the previous three World Championships in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Finishing the WBSC U-18 Women’s Softball World Cup with an undefeated 8-0 record, Team USA’s dominant campaign to the gold medal was led by stellar pitching performances that garnered a 0.46 ERA with 78 K’s. Named tournament Most-Valuable-Player (MVP), Valerie Cagle (Yorktown, Va.) finished fourth in strikeouts (20) with Keagan Rothrock (Whiteland, Ind.) following closely behind with 18. Leading the tournament in perfect games, Alissa Humphrey’s (Micanopy, Fla.)control in the circle contributed to Team USA’s success as only five runs were allowed through eight games. The superior U.S. pitching staff was backed by an offense that scored an impressive 57 runs with a .371 team batting average.
Landing atop the offensive leaderboard was Erin Coffel (Bremen, Ind.) who earned an award for the Most Runs Scored with nine runs and 11 hits, including two home runs to put her in the top two with a .478 batting average and .556 on-base percentage. Also leading the pack with nine runs scored was Kinsey Fiedler (Lee’s Summit, Mo.) who finished third in hits (10) and fourth in RBI (6), right behind Coffel and Maci Bergeron (Rayne, La.) who each racked up seven RBI apiece. Slugging a few hits of her own was Megan Grant (San Bruno, Calif.) who led the tournament with four doubles and finished fourth in batting average (.438) and third in on-base percentage (.550).
Named to the 2021 WBSC U-18 Women’s Softball World Cup All-World Team for an outstanding performance throughout the tournament were five members of Team USA:
Today’s gold medal victory was led by an outstanding pitching performance from Cagle in which she tallied 13 strikeouts in seven complete innings. A solid defense kept the U.S. in the game while Cagle, Olivia Johnson (Pearland, Texas), and Violet Zavodnik (Murrieta, Calif.) each reached base twice before Cagle came in clutch with the game-winning hit to seal the win and claim the World Championship title for Team USA.
Getting the start in the circle for the U.S., Cagle came out strong and never looked back, retiring the first five out of six batters she faced via a strikeout. A quiet day at the plate for both teams, Zavodnik looked to make some noise with a single to the outfield in the bottom of the second but a slick double-play from the Chinese Taipei defense quickly ended the at-bat.
A leadoff single in the top of the third gave Chinese Taipei their first baserunner of the day. Remaining unfazed, Cagle issued back-to-back strikeouts before Bergeron fired a ball down to second to prevent a stolen base and record the third out of the inning. After going down in order, Team USA took the field again in the top of the fourth where Cagle picked up two more K’s to keep the score knotted 0-0.
Both offenses remained silent until a leadoff single from Johnson in the bottom of the fifth put a runner on for the Eagles. A two-out single from Cagle allowed Johnson to move into scoring position but a strikeout would cut the rally short and send the game to the sixth.
Despite two singles from Chinese Taipei in the top of the frame, the U.S. defense remained sharp as Bergeron once again showed off her arm by picking-off a runner at third to end the inning. A lone hit from Fiedler in the bottom of the sixth wouldn’t be enough for the U.S. to score as the game advanced into the seventh where Cagle continued to shine, recording her 13th strikeout of the game to keep Chinese Taipei off the basepaths and give Team USA another chance at the plate.
With her second single of the day, Johnson gave the Eagles a leadoff baserunner in the bottom of the seventh. A walk to Zavodnik would put another runner on before a fielder’s choice would cause an out at third, leaving the U.S. with runners on first and second with one out. Stepping up to the plate and wasting no time, Cagle drove the first pitch she saw to the left-center gap allowing Zavodnik to speed home and score the game-winning run to give Team USA the 1-0 walk-off gold medal victory for the 2021 U-18 World Championship title.
Following tonight’s win, the U-18 WNT will return to the U.S. with two Championship titles, having claimed the 2021 Junior Pan American Games gold medal in Barranquilla, Colombia earlier this month. Between the two tournaments, Team USA finished with a 14-0 record and a team batting average of .413. The U.S. offense slugged a total of 137 hits including 19 home runs and 21 doubles, resulting in 128 runs scored. Defensively, Team USA allowed only five runs through all 14 games. A force to be reckoned with in the circle, the U.S. pitching staff tallied 140 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched while throwing 12 shutouts and four perfect games to finish the year with a 0.28 ERA.
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.
About the World Baseball Softball Confederation
Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland -- the Olympic Capital -- the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is the world governing body for baseball and softball. WBSC has 208 National Federation and Associate Members in 135 countries and territories across Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania, which represent a united baseball/softball sports movement that encompasses over 65 million athletes and attracts approximately 150 million fans to stadiums worldwide annually.
The WBSC governs all international competitions involving official National Teams. The WBSC oversees the Premier12, World Baseball Classic, Baseball World Cups, Softball World Cups and Softball World Championships, as well as baseball and softball events at the Olympic Games.
For more information, visit www.wbsc.org, which is available six languages: English, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.