Softball fans across the United States were treated to another battle of the titans as world-ranked No. 1 USA took on No. 2 Japan in the USA Softball International Cup Championship. In the ESPN-televised showdown, Team USA overcame a one-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth as Women’s National Team (WNT) veteran Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) scored the game-winning run on a Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) sac fly.
It was also a historic day for the USA Softball U-19 WNT program, who took home the Bronze Medal for the first time in program history with an 8-0 (five innings) shutout over Scrap Yard Fast Pitch. The U-19 squad closed out the day with a tie in an exhibition matchup against the USSSA Pride after inclement-weather approached the area.
USA WNT 2, Japan 1
In their fifth meeting of the 2019 season, it was Team USA who came out on top in a closely-contested battle against world-ranked No. 2 Japan. Timely-hitting, strong pitching, and stellar defense were put on display by the Americans, who out-hit their international rivals in the 2-1, comeback win.
“When you have No. 1 and No. 2, it always comes down to the last play,” said USA Softball WNT Head Coach, Ken Eriksen (Tampa, Fla.). “We’ve been on the good side a few times and we’ve been on the other side a couple of times. It’s always nice to be the team who gets the last shot. This team is patient, we don’t panic, and we understand the grind of preseason with just getting back into the flow with reps.”
Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) came out dealing in the top of the first, getting two strikeouts while using the defense behind her to retire the side in order. Back-to-back singles by McCleney and Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) put two on early for the U.S., but a double play and fly out kept the game scoreless.
A leadoff home run by Japan’s Yu Yamamoto in the top of the second put Team USA down by one, but Osterman fired back with two strikeouts and a line out to Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) at second base.
The U.S. had another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the third after Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) led off with a single, but a fielder’s choice and popup kept a runner at first. Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) was hit by a pitch to put another runner on base, but a popup ended the threat.
Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) entered the circle in the top of the fourth inning and quickly dealt two strikeouts while inducing a fly ball to right field. Carda stayed just as dominant in the top of the fifth, earning her third strikeout of the game while a grounder and fly ball brought Team USA back to the plate.
The Red, White and Blue loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth after McCleney singled with one out and back-to-back hit batters put runners on each bag, but Japan’s defense recorded a double play to once again keep the U.S. off the board.
That did not last long, however, as the offense took advantage of another pair of walks to take the lead for good in the sixth. Aguilar led off with a walk and moved to second on an infield single by Moultrie before scoring on an RBI single by Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). A walk to pinch-hitter Sahvanna Jaquish (Highland, Calif.) loaded the bases for McCleney. As McCleney sent a ball to left field for the second out of the at-bat, Moultrie tagged up and dove in for the would-be winning run.
With the U.S. up by one, Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) entered to earn the save and did just that. A fly ball, strikeout and ground out retired Japan in order with Team USA walking away with the win.
Osterman, Carda, and Abbott combined for the two-hitter with Carda earning the win after tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Osterman dealt six strikeouts in the first three innings while Abbott tacked on one strikeout to her tournament totals.
At the plate, Spaulding was simply lights out, going 3-for-3 with one run driven in. McCleney continued her hot-hitting ways, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Arioto led the USA Softball International Cup with five home runs and 10 RBI while Abbott issued 34 strikeouts and Osterman followed closely with 30.
The WNT will take a brief hiatus before reuniting in Lafayette, La. and then traveling to Houston, Texas for exhibition games and training against Scrap Yard fast Pitch. From there, the team will head to Lima, Peru for the Pan American Games.
U-19 WNT 8, Scrap Yard Fast Pitch 0 (five innings)
Bailey Dowling (St. Joseph, Ill.) had a day at the plate as she helped fuel an 8-0 (five innings) shutout win over Scrap Yard Fast Pitch in the Bronze Medal Game of the USA Softball International Cup. Dowling, who blasted two, three-run home runs, picked up six of Team USA’s RBI while Megan Faraimo (Vista, Calif.) and Lexi Kilfoyl (Land O’Lakes, Fla.) combined for the win in the circle.
“This team played the game the right way – as a team,” said U-19 WNT Head Coach, Heather Tarr (Redmond, Wash.). “Everyone played a huge role in our success this week, and that’s what we’re going to need as we head into the World Cup later this year. The question now becomes how good can we get?”
The scoring started early for the U-19 offense as Skylar Wallace (Woodstock, Ga.) singled in the leadoff spot. Despite the next two batters recording the first two outs of the at-bat, a walk to Jasmine Sievers (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) put two on for Dowling who responded with her first shot of the day.
Scrap Yard threatened in the top of the second with a two-out walk and single, but a strikeout by Faraimo ended the threat.
Dowling came up big again in the bottom of the third inning after Jayda Coleman (The Colony, Texas) doubled with one out and Sievers walked for the second time in the contest. On a 1-2 count, Dowling hammered a ball over the left field fence, extending the lead to six runs.
The U.S. put the game away in the bottom of the fourth inning after an error, hit batter and walk loaded the bases. Coleman hit a ground ball that was mishandled by the defense to plate another run and a fielder’s choice off the bat of Sievers brought in run number eight.
Needing three outs to earn the run-rule victory, the U-19 did just that as Kilfoyl, who entered in the top of the fourth inning, struck out two and got a groundout to end the game.
Faraimo earned the win in the circle, her third of the tournament, with four strikeouts and two hits while Kilfoyl struck out two and allowed one hit in two innings of work. Aside from Dowling, whose six runs batted in led the team, Coleman and Sievers each picked up RBI.
The U-19 WNT will reunite in Spartanburg, S.C. for exhibition contests and training at the USA Softball Junior Olympic (JO) Cup in preparation for the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-19 Women’s Softball World Cup in Irvine, Calif.
U-19 WNT 3, USSSA Pride 3
The U-19 WNT and USSSA Pride closed out the USA Softball International Cup with an exhibition contest that ended in a tie after inclement weather arrived at South Commons Softball Complex. It was a back-and-forth contest between the two teams with the U-19 squad battling it out until the end of the game. Wallace went 2-for-3 at the plate while Callie Turner (Land O’Lakes, Fla.) and Kathryn Sandercock (McLean, Va.) both saw action in the circle.