SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The USA Softball Women’s National Team ended its 2013 campaign on a high note with an 8-1, five-inning triumph against Canada in the gold medal game Sunday to finish a perfect 9-0 at the Pan American Games Qualifier. With the title, the Americans have staked a spot in the 2014 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships plus 2015’s Pan American Games.
Golden Bear Valerie Arioto finished the tournament with team-leading numbers including RBI (18), home runs (5), doubles (3), walks (12) and batting average (.500, tied with Tennessee’s Raven Chavanne). She put up total 13 runs, ranking second on the team behind Florida’s Michelle Moultrie (14). Fellow Cal alum Lindsey Ziegenhirt batted .211 with a home run, two doubles, three RBI and four runs scored.
In Sunday’s championship game, Arioto went 1-for-3 with a run and two RBI after sending a shot over the left field fence that also brought home Chavanne at the top of the fifth inning. Earlier in the game, at the top of the fourth, Ziegenhirt nearly had her shot at a long ball of her own with a hit that almost cleared center field, but it was snagged just in time. She also registered a sac bunt at the top of the second to advance Texas’ Taylor Thom and clear the way for a walk by Moultrie followed by a home run from Chavanne.
The USA will now focus on the 2014 ISF World Championships, set for August 13-23 in the Netherlands. Cuba, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic also qualified for the world championships. Team USA has also earned a berth in 2015’s Pan American Games from July 10-26 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Full recap below courtesy of USA Softball:
The USA Softball Women’s National Team ended the Pan American Games Qualifier just as they started it with an 8-1 run-rule victory over Canada to claim the Gold the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. In five innings, the U.S. put up 7 hits, three of which by way of a homerun, and completed the tournament with a perfect 9-0 record. As a team, they hit an impressive .378 throughout the week outscoring opponents 84-4. The pitching staff held opponents to a .165 batted average, combining for an ERA of 1.05 while recording six shutout victories.
“Our team just keeps getting better and better," said Head Coach Ken Eriksen. "We still have a long way to go, but we are doing some things now that I like. The girls aren't worried about any personal agendas and they've really taken on a philosophy of 'What can I do to make this team better'. I'm impressed with their attitude of giving it up for those three letters across their chest and not the name on the back of the uniform."
Lefty Sara Nevins (Pineallas Park, Fla.) earned her fourth win of the tournament after throwing four and a third innings. She tallied a team-leading 24 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched over the week with a 1.64 ERA.
USA put runners in scoring position right away in the top of the first inning when Canada's starter Sara Plourde issued back-to-back walks to Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.). Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) brought Moultrie home with an RBI single to right field to put USA's first run on the board and give the U.S. an early 1-0 lead.
Canada would get a runner on base with two outs in the bottom of the first after a mishandled ball by Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) at first, but a popup to Chavanne at third retired the side. The U.S. wasn't satisfied with their lead as they exploded for five runs in the top of the second inning with the help of two home runs. Lauren Chamberlain (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) led off with a walk before Taylor Hoagland connected for her third home run of the Qualifier to plate two runs for the Red, White and Blue.
Hoagland's two-run homer prompted a pitching change for Canada as Jocelyn Cater entered in relief for Plourde. Cater issued a walk to Taylor Thom (Cedar Park, Texas) before Lindsey Ziegenhirt (Elk Grove, Calif.) advanced Thom 60 ft. with a sac-bunt. Another walk to Moultrie put two runners on base for Chavanne who sent a long ball over right field fence for USA's second home run of the inning, extending the lead to 6-0.
With one out in the bottom of the second, Nevins nicked Kelsey Haberl to put another Canadian runner on base. A wild pitch by Nevins sent Haberl to second, but Ziegenhirt quickly grabbed the loose ball to connect with Thom at the bag to record out No. 2. Nevins then issued a walk to Megan Timpf, but Chavanne snagged a ground out to strand Timpf at first.
Cater silenced the U.S. bats for the first time in the game with a series of long balls to the outfield. In the bottom of the third inning, Canada threatened to score when they loaded the bases. A leadoff single by Natalie Wideman was followed by Caitlin Lever fielder's choice in which both runners advanced safely. Arioto snagged a bunt from Victoria Hayward to get the first out of the inning before an intentional walk to Jennifer Yee loaded the bases. Nevins came up with a big strikeout to Canada's cleanup hitter and a flyout to Chamberlain in right field squashed the rally without a run allowed.
USA threatened to score in the top of the fourth inning after Ziegenhirt sent a long ball over center, but a great snag by Lever gave the U.S. two outs before Cater issued her third strikeout of the game to retire the side in order. Haberl led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but two popups and a strikeout by Nevins cleared the bases to bring the eagles back to bat.
USA sealed the game in the top of the fifth when Chavanne hit a single up the middle to lead off the inning. Gibson moved the runner to second with a sac-bunt before Arioto sent a shot over the left field fence to push the U.S. lead to 8-0. Chamberlain followed with a single to prompt another pitching change for Canada as Marina Demore entered the circle. With two outs, Hoagland hit a shot to center field who made the catch for out No. 3.
Canada prevented the shutout in the bottom of the fifth after Lever reached on a hit-by-pitch. Hayward moved Lever to second with a groundout to Gibson before Yee hit a single to left field to plate Lever. Two passed balls moved Yee to third before Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) entered the circle for the U.S. Hawkins came in the game with a full count on Jennifer Gilbert, and a ball walked Gilbert put runners on the corners. Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) then came in to pitch for the U.S. with one out and two runners on. Chamberlain, who moved to first base, snagged a shot to record the second out of the inning and keep Yee at third before a popup to Moore ended the game.
Canada recorded just three hits in the contest and finished the tournament at 9-3 overall earning the silver medal. Cuba also shared the podium with the bronze medal after falling to Canada 2-0 earlier in the day. Qualifying for the Pan American Games, which are to be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada July 10-26, 2015 are: USA, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Brazil. Teams who qualified for the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships, which are scheduled for August 13-23, 2013 in the Netherlands are: USA, Cuba, Canada, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.
USA will now turn its sights toward the 2014 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships. At last year's World Championship, Team USA Japan in the finals, where they fell 2-1 in a 10-inning shootout.