Barranquilla, Colombia — Becoming the first-ever U-17 Women’s Pan American Championship Gold Medalists, the USA Softball U-17 Women’s National Team (WNT) finished the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record after defeating Mexico, 2-0, in the finale Saturday night at Edgardo Schemel Stadium.
Caitlynn Neal (Dewey, Ariz.) went the distance in the circle for the Red, White, and Blue, allowing just two hits in her seven innings of work. Offensively, the U-17 WNT plated two runs off six hits with Avery Hodge (Fulshear, Texas) and Hallie Wacaser (Centerton, Ark.) collecting two apiece.
“I am speechless and truly blessed by the opportunity to get to know each of these amazing young women,” said Head Coach Kyla Holas (Pasadena, Texas). “They are the future of this sport and represented their country with outstanding class. They accomplished something as a team that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Thanks to all for making this an amazing experience.”
Neal started for the U.S. and despite issuing a walk, retired the next two batters on a sacrifice bunt and strikeout before catcher Jessie Blaine (Wentzville, Mo.) picked off the runner at third to close out the inning. Hodge dropped a fly ball into left field to lead off the bottom half of the frame and after advancing to second on a wild pitch, was left stranded after a strikeout and back-to-back fly outs ended the first inning.
Mexico reached on a walk in the second and while a sacrifice bunt moved the runner, she would be caught attempting to advance after the next batter grounded into a fielder’s choice. A flyout followed to give the U.S. its second shot at the plate. Wacaser looked to get the scoring started for the Red, White, and Blue with a leadoff single but three straight fly outs ensued to end the inning.
Retiring the Mexico side in order on a pair of strikeouts and a groundout, the U.S. returned to the plate. Hodge hit a one-out single up the middle and after stealing second, sprinted home to score after Maddie Gallagher (Port Washington, N.Y.) hit a fly ball to right field. After the throw home, Gallagher advanced to third but was left stranded after a flyout and strikeout signaled the start of the fourth inning.
Mexico placed two runners on base after an error and single in the top of the fourth inning but with two outs, a groundout to Neal kept them off the board. Reaching third on a leadoff triple in the bottom half of the frame was Wacaser, who crossed home after Tieley Vaughn (Tampa, Fla.) singled and an overthrown ball.
Ahead 2-0 after four innings, the U.S. defense continued to work and sat down the side in order for the second time in the top of the fifth inning. Hodge reached on a hit-by-pitch but a strikeout, fly out and groundout prevented them from scoring additional runs.
Managing to get their second hit of the game, a two-out single put a runner on for Mexico in the sixth inning but a groundout followed to end the half-inning. Despite an error by the shortstop allowing Vaughn to reach first safely with two outs, a groundout kept the score at 2-0.
Needing just three outs to secure their eighth win and finish the U-17 Women’s Pan American Championship as undefeated Gold Medalists, the Red, White, and Blue did just that. A groundout and back-to-back fly outs sealed the 2-0 victory for the U.S.
As a team, the U.S. hit an impressive .430 with five home runs and 67 RBI in eight games played. Wacaser paced the offense, hitting .560 (14-for-25) with a tournament-high two home runs in addition to 10 RBI and 11 runs scored. Blaine picked up 12 RBI while hitting .381 (8-for-21) and amassing a .714 slugging percentage. From the circle, the U.S staff combined for a 1.43 ERA and struck out 60 in 44 innings in the circle.
About USA Softball
USA Softball (USAS) is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit organization headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is designated as the National Governing Body (NGB) of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, USAS sanctions competition through a network of Local Associations, which includes all 50 states and select metro associations. USAS is dedicated to providing people of all ages the opportunity to play the game they love at a variety of levels by offering recreational, league, tournament and competitive play for fast pitch, slow pitch and modified pitch. USAS annually conducts thousands of tournaments throughout the country including over 100 National Championships. The USAS umpire program is among the nation’s largest and are widely known as the best trained umpires in the game.
As the NGB for the sport of softball, USAS is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, World Championships and other international and domestic events. For more information on USAS, including its founding and history as the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), please visit, www.USASoftball.com.
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.