Capacity crowd watches USA edge China

01/09/2006

The tournament, which is also softball’s Olympic Test Event and a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Softball competition, is being played at the new softball stadium built for the Games that will take place just under two years from now.

BEIJING, CHINA – Despite chants of “CHI-NA…CHI-NA…CHI-NA” and ‘the wave’ rolling through the crowd of just under 10,000, the host country couldn’t keep its unbeaten record intact, falling to USA tonight, 2-0, at the International Softball Federation’s XI Women’s World Championship. Like the Americans, China had won its first five games at the 15-country event, which began Sunday.

The tournament, which is also softball’s Olympic Test Event and a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Softball competition, is being played at the new softball stadium built for the Games that will take place just under two years from now.

Team USA (6-0) got on the board early with a run in the top of the first inning. Zeros started to litter the scoreboard thereafter, although China threatened in the bottom of the fifth. The host team had a runner on third base with two outs, but left her stranded when pitcher Cat Osterman registered one of her nine strikeouts on the night.

The U.S. made them regret it just a half-inning later. With runners on second and third base, the defending world champions caused China to bring on Wei Lu in relief of starting pitcher Qi Li. USA responded by Andrea Duran promptly dropping a single into left field, scoring Jessica Mendoza for what would be the final margin of victory. China had just two hits on the night but held the Americans to just four.

Friday had begun with Canada raising their record to 5-1 with a convincing 12-0 victory over South Africa (0-6). The game was shortened due to the (international) run-ahead rule. (A game is considered complete if a team is ahead by 20 runs after three innings, 15 after four, or seven after five.) Canada had scored two runs in each inning except the third – when they scored four times.

Winning pitcher Kaila Holtz threw a no-hitter and struck out eleven batters. She walked just one. Three players had three hits each for the winners, including Melanie Matthews, who has a whopping .750 batting average so far in the tournament (15-for-20 at the plate).

The Netherlands improved to 2-4 thanks to Colombia’s withdrawal from the tournament on Monday. Today’s scheduled game between the two teams goes into the books as a 7-0 win for the Dutch.

Great Britain posted a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory against New Zealand. The Kiwis appeared headed for victory. They scored a run in the top of the fifth inning and were one out away from a 1-0 victory when things fell apart in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on the corners and a full count, Kirsten Whitt drew ball four to load the bases. Katy Wilkins knocked a 3-1 pitch for a single that scored two runs and suddenly the British were 3-3, while the White Sox fell to 2-4. As a result Great Britain’s game tomorrow against Italy suddenly will determine the final playoff spot in Pool A.

Italy (3-3) stayed in the hunt by nipping DPR Korea, 1-0. The game’s only run came in the bottom of the fifth when Natalia Cimin, who had begun the inning reaching first on an error by the pitcher, scored on a DPR Korea error by their second baseplayer on a fly ball from Shanel Garofalo. Winning pitcher Leslie Malerich surrendered just two hits over six innings before being relieved by Brena De Sancta, who retired the side in the seventh.

Chinese Taipei evened their record at 3-3 after a big 11-0 win over Botswana today. Shengjung Lai and Hsinlin Han combined on a no-hitter and Miaoyi Chen went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs batted in and four runs scored. The game was called after five innings due to the run-ahead rule. Botswana drops to 1-5 while Taipei heads for a do-or-die game tomorrow against Greece.

It took extra innings but Japan prevailed in Day 6’s other battle of the unbeatens, dropping Australia, 2-1. The two teams had met in a similar high pressure game two years ago when Australia won to advance to the gold medal game at the Olympic Softball competition in Athens, leaving Japan with the bronze medal. The Aussies gained the upper hand this time around too, but couldn’t hold on.

With the score still 0-0 after the seven regulation innings, the international tiebreaker rule was implemented, allowing a runner to start on second base as each half-inning starts. Australia managed to convert theirs in the top of the eighth, but Japan had the same success in their half of the inning, sending the teams on to the ninth, tied at one. After the Aussies went three-and-out in the top half, Japan, with only one out, got the victory when the runner at second, Eri Yamada, scored on a single by Sachiko Ito.

Another important game was taking place on the adjacent field, where Venezuela defeated Greece, 3-1. The 2006 Central American & Caribbean Games gold medalists jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when, with one out, Yuruby Alicart knocked a 1-0 pitch for a two-run home run. Venezuela (4-2) upped their lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning when Rubilena Rojas doubled in Yusmary Perez. The “ Hellas” (3-3) tried to come back a half-inning later when catcher Stacey Farnworth scored to cut the deficit to two runs, but it wasn’t meant to be against pitcher Mariangee Bogado, who threw a complete-game three-hitter.

Round robin play wraps up on Saturday before playoff games fill out the schedule for Sunday and Monday. The two medal games will take place on Tuesday.