Beijing, China --- The USA Softball team was crowned World Champions for the sixth consecutive time after defeating Japan, 3-0, in the gold medal game of the XI ISF Women’s World Championship. USA’s Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) out dueled Japan’s Yukiko Ueno to earn her sixth victory of the championship and prove she is the best pitcher in the world. In seven innings of work, Osterman allowed only one hit and struck out 14 to secure the World title.
Through the first two innings both pitchers held their opposition hitless with Osterman striking out three of the six batters she faced while Ueno fanned one.
“Its amazing what 24 hours can do. Softball is a very humbling sport and you have to get used to the highs and lows. The three of these ladies up here today, Cat (Osterman), Jessica (Mendoza) and (Crystl) Bustos are veterans in my eyes,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “And games like today are what veterans do. They come through in tough situations. It was a great game and they performed very well against a very good team. We needed to be at our best today and the team was.”
In the top of the third inning USA first baseman Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) broke up Ueno’s no-hitter with a lead off single to left field but was left stranded when Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.) struckout swinging followed by groundouts by Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) and Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.)
A lead-off walk to Megu Hirose in the bottom of the third provided Japan with their first baserunner of the game but U.S. catcher Stacey Nuveman erased the threat with a snap throw to first that nailed Hirose. Osterman took care of the final two batters by recording her fourth and fifth strikeout of the game.
With one out in the top of the fourth inning Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) started a rally with a rocket through the left side of the infield and Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) followed with a single to left center to put the first runner of the game in scoring position. Ueno responded to the challenge by getting Nuveman to pop up to second base and Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) to chase a third strike out of the zone.
Japan broke up Osterman’s bid for a no-hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning when Emi Naito singled up the middle but no damage was done as Osterman got Eri Yamada to pop up and made Satoko Mabuchi her sixth strikeout of the game.
The momentum of the game took a dramatic swing in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) laid down a perfect bunt for her first hit of the game. Mendoza, who leads the USA in almost every possible offensive category, came through once again with a line drive home run to right field to give the Red, White and Blue a 2-0 lead. Bustos added an insurance run with a blast deep over the left field fence to put the USA up 3-0.
“Every pitcher has a plan each at bat. She kept throwing me away and beat me at it with a strikeout earlier in the game. I didn’t want her to beat me again with that pitch,” said Mendoza. “Its how the game works and that’s why its so exciting. Sometimes she gets me and sometimes I get her. Today I got her and its nice to come out on the other side.”
Osterman took care of the rest by striking out nine of the last 10 batters she faced including three strikeouts in the seventh inning.
Mendoza and Bustos were the offensive juggernauts for the USA all week long while Osterman took care of business in the circle. Mendoza finished the championship with a .500 batting average (16-for-32), five home runs, 14 runs scored and 16 RBI. Bustos ended the championship with a .500 batting average (17-for-34, six doubles, two home runs, 10 runs scored and 14 RBI.
Osterman was simply amazing going 6-0 with wins over 6th place Italy, fifth place Canada, fourth place China, third place Australia and runner-up Japan. She pitched 41 of the 66 innings for the United States allowing just three earned runs while striking out 70 in six games.
The win solidifies the USA’s position as the No. 1 team in the world and earns it the top seed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“We learned a lot here. The venue here is very good and just needs a couple minor tweaks. They volunteers are great and well organized here,” said Candrea of his team’s experience. “It was a great experience for us and will be helpful in us planning for 2008. This has been a tremendous three weeks for us and the people of Beijing have been wonderful.”
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