SENDAI CITY, Japan — It was the Jennie Finch show in Sendai, Japan, on Sunday as the right-hander led Team USA to the Gold Medal at the 2009 Japan Cup with solid pitching and stellar hitting. Defeating the Japanese 2-0 in front of 2,600 fans, the USA took home the hardware for the fifth time in the six-year history of the event.
Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), who doubled to drive in the game’s only two runs in the first inning, had a no-hitter going until the top of the seventh before leadoff batter Rei Nishiyama hit a change-up for a single. Finch got the next three batters to clinch the win for her team and earn Most Valuable Player honors individually.
“I wasn’t focused on the no-hitter,” Finch said. “I was just trying to execute one pitch at a time and get outs, trying to keep the hitters off-balance and use all the pitches I have. Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.) called a great game for me behind the plate, and it was really a lot of fun.”
The USA came out firing in the first inning when shortstop and leadoff batter Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) got the first of her two hits. Amber Patton (Forsyth, Ill.) followed and got on base via an error by the third baseman, moving Watley to second before both moved up a base on a double steal. Finch, who is one of the top hitters on the team in addition to being a standout pitcher and often a first baseman, then doubled to put two runs on the board.
“The way we came out and scored early, I was thinking this was going to be a pretty easy win,” USA Head Coach Jay Miller (Starkville, Miss.) said. “But things dried up real fast, with the Japanese pitchers striking out six, four of them called on third strikes.
“Overall, I was really proud of the way this team came together,” Miller said. “We had a lot of young players here who did great, but more importantly, I was so pleased with what the veterans did here. Finch, Watley and Lappin did a super job of providing leadership for the young players. As a new coach coming in, I really appreciated the wonderful job they did and how they made my job easy as the head coach.”
Watley’s two singles were one of three hits for Team USA, the other being Finch’s two RBI double.
“I thought the Japan team was very talented and very similar to us since a lot of the Olympians for both USA and Japan have retired from playing ball,” said Finch, who struck out eight of 23 batters. “I think the great competition here was a testament of how our sport has grown and will continue to grow. I think the future looks bright.”
With the win in Japan, the USA has now won three summer events — Canada Cup, World Cup and Japan Cup — and is 22-0 for the three events. The team is also currently undefeated at the 2009 Pan American Qualifier in Maracay, Venezuela.
In the bronze medal game, Australia beat Chinese Taipei 4-0.
The Amateur Softball Association, founded in 1933, is the National Governing Body of softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The ASA has become one of the nation's largest sports organizations and now sanctions competition in every state through a network of 83 local associations. The ASA has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 240,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than three million. For more information on the ASA, visit http://www.asasoftball.com/.
About USA Softball
USA Softball is the brand created, operated and owned by the ASA that links the USA Men's, Women's, Junior Boys' and Junior Girls' National Team programs together. USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting these four National Teams to compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women's National Team is one of the only two women's sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won eight World Championship titles including the last six consecutive as well as claimed two World Cup of Softball titles. For more information about USA Softball, please visit http://www.usasoftball.com/.
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