MIDLAND, MI – An ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour record, 5,185 fans enjoyed their 4th of July celebration at Currie Stadium in Midland, MI on Sunday afternoon where the USA Softball Olympic team defeated the Midland Lady Explorers 10-0. Standing room only, the U.S. improved to 45-0 in tour action while the arm of Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) continued to lead the Red, White and Blue as she tallied her 14th victory of the tour. The large crowd topped the tour record books beating Normal, IL who earlier in the week totaled an attendance of 4,350.
“Seeing all these people come out and watch us play, that’s what this is all about,” shortstop Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) said. “This is incredible and we know they will all be watching and cheering when we head to Athens to defend the gold.”
Watley led in the first doing what she does best with an infield base hit followed by a stolen base to put herself in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt from Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, CA) advanced Watley to third before a rally of doubles lit the scoreboard for an early 4-0 lead. Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA), Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, CA), Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA), and Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, FL) all connected on RBI doubles to put the home team at a 4-0 advantage.
Quiet through the second and third, three more runs increased the U.S. lead in the fourth led by an Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) single to centerfield. Watley, who finished 3-for-4, then added another infield slap single to put two runners on before Bustos, who now has 81 RBI, then bolted her second of three hits for the day plating Freed and Watley.
Another four-run tear in the fifth, the U.S. used three hits and two Explorer errors to secure the 10-0 mercy rule win. A lead off walk to Fernandez put pinch runner Jaime Clark (Tustin, CA) on board before two outs looked to leave her stranded. Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA), however, kept things alive with a base hit bunt back to the pitcher. A fielding error by Explorer shortstop Steph Matthew loaded the bases before Watley cleared the bases with a line drive triple to right center. Watley then added the 10th and final run crossing home plate after another fielding error by Steph Matthew.
Winning pitcher Finch totaled 11 strikeouts on the day and allowed just one hit and one walk. The Explorers only player to reach base was in the top of the sixth inning with two outs when Jenny Goldschmeding sent a double to right center. For the U.S., Watley and Bustos led all hitters with three hits a piece and Fernandez finished at 2-for-2.
The 10-0 mercy rule win marks the eighth consecutive shut out on the ASA Grassroots portion of the tour. Team USA has outscored its opponents now 400-11 with a combined team ERA of 0.27.
Up next, the U.S. will continue travel along the ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour as they head south to Houston, TX where they will play in a double header on Tuesday evening at Memorial Stadium beginning at 5:30 p.m.
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