First four playoff games done; Chinese Taipei, Venezuela eliminated


The tournament that opened with 15 countries participating is now down to its final six, with four more games set for Monday, before the medal games take place when the event wraps up Tuesday.

BEIJING, CHINA – The International Softball Federation’s (ISF) XI Women’s World Championship, which started here one week ago today, moved into playoff action Sunday. The tournament that opened with 15 countries participating is now down to its final six, with four more games set for Monday, before the medal games take place when the event wraps up Tuesday.

Fengtai Softball Field, built to host the 2008 Olympic Softball competition, is the site of this event, which will qualify four teams for those Games in two years. As a result, this is also the sport’s Olympic Test Event.

The playoffs opened this morning with 2004 Olympic Softball gold medal game participants USA and Australia going head-to-head. The Americans, who won all seven of their round robin games, were facing an Aussie team (5-2) that was upset the night before by the Netherlands, 4-2.

U.S. pitcher Cat Osterman, who dominated during round robin play with a 0.00 earned run average and 34 strikeouts in 21 innings, seemed to be on her way to her fourth victory early in the game. Her team jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second, courtesy of a Stacey Nuveman two-run home run. However, the Aussies broke through a half-inning later. Australia tied the game and at that point already had four hits off of Osterman, who’d given up just six in all of round robin play.

The U.S. bats kicked things up a notch, and after three complete innings and two home runs by the Americans, the red, white, and blue were back into a two-run lead.

Australia missed a big chance a half-inning later, leaving three runners stranded when the top of the fourth ended, and the U.S. seized the chance to finish them off. Andrea Duran led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run and by the time the hit parade was over, Team USA was in an 8-2 lead. Jessica Mendoza finished things off with a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, ending the game via the (international) run-ahead rule (20 runs after three innings, 15 after four, or seven after five).

Four U.S. players had two hits each and Mendoza drove in a total of five runs. Osterman went all six innings, giving up six hits and striking out 12.

In today’s second game, host China (6-1) took on unbeaten Japan in a nailbiter. The game’s first hits didn’t come until the top of the fourth inning (Japan, two), and the first run didn’t come until the game’s only score – in the top of the eighth inning.

Eri Yamada scored on a wild throw by China on a ball hit to the infield by Satoko Mabuchi. Under the international tiebreaker, the inning had started with a runner placed on second base (Aki Uenishi). The first batter sacrificed Uenishi to third base, but she was tagged out in a rundown trying to score on a ball hit by Yamada, who advanced all the way to third during the game of catch while trying to tag the runner.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, China tried to have their (tiebreaker) runner steal third, but she was thrown out, and then the batter struck out, and the game was over, leaving them to play Italy tomorrow afternoon. The host team would have to win that game and another later Monday to advance to Tuesday’s medal games.

China had just three hits off of Japan ace Yukiko Ueno, who struck out ten. Japan will face USA tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. (local time)

Canada advanced to tomorrow’s play by eliminating Chinese Taipei, 3-2. Canada will play Australia on Monday at 10:30 a.m.

The Canadians, 5-2 during round robin play, put it all together tonight to beat Chinese Taipei, who leaves with a 4-4 record. Pitcher Danielle Lawrie struck out eight in a complete game four-hitter and Taipei didn’t help themselves by committing four errors. Hot hitting Melanie Matthews was 2-for-2 with a single and a double. She scored a run and drove one in.

Canada had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. They tacked on two more in the fifth on the Matthews double, as she drove in one and then another scored on an error by the Taipei second baseplayer, which also enabled Matthews to reach third. Good thing for Canada as Chinese Taipei came back a half-inning later with two runs on a double by Hui Chuan Chiong.

The night closed with Italy eliminating Venezuela, 2-1. The loss was especially tough to take for Venezuela (5-3), who had a 1-0 lead from their first at-bat, all the way up until Italy tied it in the bottom of the fourth, then scored the eventual game-winning run one inning later.