| USA celebrates following the final out in their gold medal game win against Japan tonight.
USA WINS 2006 WOMEN’S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
BEIJING, CHINA – Team USA repeated as champions tonight at the International Softball Federation’s (ISF) XI Women’s World Championship here, defeating Japan, 3-0. Cat Osterman, pitching her second game of the day, threw a complete game one-hitter and Jessica Mendoza & Crystl Bustos hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the sixth inning to lead the Americans to victory.
The 15-nation tournament, which began on August 27 and took place at the new softball venue built for the 2008 Olympic Softball competition, was also the sport’s Olympic Test Event. In addition, four teams (plus the host) are now set for the eight-team field at the Games to be held just under two years from now.
In tonight’s grand final, Natasha Watley reached on a bunt single with one out in the top of the sixth inning before Mendoza’s hit just cleared the right field wall to open the scoring. Bustos came up next and hit a solo shot to left field for the game’s final run.
Mendoza and Bustos each finished 2-for-3 at the plate. Japan’s Yukiko Ueno pitched the first six innings, striking out six, before giving way to Mariko Masubuchi. The victory by the U.S. avenged a 3-1 loss to the Japanese from the day before.
Team USA had advanced to the gold medal game with a 5-1 defeat of Australia just a few hours earlier. The score was a repeat of the outcome of the 2004 Olympic Softball gold medal game but this time left the Aussies with the bronze medals.
Australia jumped out to a 1-0 lead today on a two-out, solo home run by Stacey Porter in the top of the first inning. That would be all for the green and gold, however, as they managed just one other hit the rest of the game off of USA pitcher Cat Osterman.
Offensively for the Americans, Jessica Mendoza and Crystl Bustos led the way, each going 3-for-4 at the plate. Team USA got single runs in the bottom of the second, third, and fifth innings before Bustos hit a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth to seal the victory.
Osterman went the distance and struck out ten batters for her fifth win of the tournament.
Canada and Italy started things off this morning with a game to decide fifth place. Since the top four finishers at the ISF women’s world championships gain berths in the Olympics but the fourth place team here was the host, the game was necessitated to determine who would get the other 2008 berth. (The other three spots in the next Olympic Softball competition will be determined at regional qualifying events next year.)
Canada shut out Italy, 3-0, to gain a spot in their fourth straight Olympics. Italy, a 2000 & 2004 Summer Games participant, will get the first option on hosting the Africa/Europe region Olympic qualifier. The Italians were undone by four errors, and Canadian pitchers Lauren Bay and Robin Mackin combined on a no-hitter.
The winners scored single runs in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. Of note was the middle tally, in which outfielder Alison Bradley tripled to right field, with the Italy outfielder then overthrowing her teammate at third base, allowing Bradley to score all on the same play.
Erin Cumpstone and Jennifer Salling each went 2-for-3 at the plate for Canada.
The next ISF world championship will be the Jr. Women’s (19-and-under) in 2007 in the Netherlands (June 20-30).