Oct. 24, 2011
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - With the U.S. and Canada tied 1-1 in the gold-medal game of the Pan American Games, California senior Valerie Arioto drove in the go-ahead run to put the Americans up for good en route to their 11-1 victory over their northern brethren to take home gold at Pan Ams on Oct. 23.
In the final game, Arioto scored one run, knocked in one RBI off a hit and made seven put outs, starting at first base. Across the nine games of play, Arioto started eight games, hit .385, slugged .692 and accumulated a .667 on-base percentage. She also notched a team-high 10 walks and knocked in four RBI.
With a Pan American Games roster full of 17 rookies, the U.S. senior national team recorded the program's eighth Pan American Games gold medal. In four innings, the U.S. put up 11 hits and completed the tournament with a perfect 9-0 record. As a team, they hit an impressive .428 throughout the week outscoring opponents 78-8. The pitching staff held opponents to a .145 batted average and recorded five shutout victories.
The U.S improved its overall Pan American Games record to 87-3 since it debuted in 1979. The U.S has won the last seven consecutive gold medals (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011) and captured its eighth overall on Sunday afternoon.
Gold-Medal Game Recap (Courtesy USA Softball):
Canada put a runner in scoring position right away in the top of the first inning when Melanie Matthews reached on a walk issued by starting pitcher Jordan Taylor. A stolen base advanced Matthews before Jen Yee also earned a base on balls. But Taylor shut down the momentum with a strikeout and groundout to head to the dugout.
With two outs in the first, Lauren Gibson completely sent a rocket to dead centerfield in the bottom of the first for the 1-0 lead. The home run was the seventh for Team USA in Pan Ams and a first for Gibson.
Canada came right back at the U.S. in the top of the second inning, tying the game 1-1 when Victoria Hayward drove an RBI base hit through the left side scoring Heather Ebert who earlier reached on a walk. With two Canadian runners on and one out, the U.S. called for relief and Keilani Ricketts entered the circle. A heads up play by shortstop Molly Johnson who threw the ball to catcher Ashley Holcombe at home plate recorded out No. 2 before Stacy May-Johnson snagged a ground out to halt the Canadian threat.
Kaitlin Cochran was hit by a pitch to start the second inning and moved 60 feet with a stolen base, her second of the week. Jenae Leles then moved her to third with a ground out and Valerie Arioto drove in the go-head run with an RBI triple for the 2-1 advantage. Molly Johnson then roped her first of two hits in the game moving Arioto to home and the solid 3-1 lead.
With bases loaded in the bottom of the third thanks to a Moultrie bunt single, Rhea Taylor reaching on a Canadian throwing error and an intentional walk to Gibson, May-Johnson made Canada pay connecting on a two-RBI line drive single through the left side for the 5-1 difference. The runs kept coming as Leles drove in her eighth hit of the Pan Ams for two RBI and a 7-1 comfortable lead.
The U.S. wasn't satisfied again in the fourth as it added four more runs for the eventual 11-1 walk-off run rule victory. Pinch runner Taylor Hoagland scored on a throwing error by the Canadian catcher and inch hitter Christi Orgeron doubled for an RBI and also scored on a fielder's choice. Kelly Grieve was responsible for the final RBI of the game that sealed the gold medal as she hit the ball hard to left field, scoring Gibson for the win.
Canada recorded just three hits in the contest and finished the tournament at 7-3 overall, earning the silver medal. Cuba also shared the podium with the bronze medal after falling to Canada 4-0 in the morning.
Up next the U.S. will break for the holidays and return in January 2012 for a selection camp for the 2012 World Championship team.
About Valerie Arioto:
The future looks promising for Arioto, who sat out the 2011 season with an injury. As a junior in 2010, she played in all 63 games for the Golden Bears, leading the team walks (81), homers (19) and runs (61) in addition to going 21-9 in the circle with a 1.43 ERA in 205.2 innings of work, allowing her batters to hit just .169. She earned herself placement on the ASA Top-50, Top-25 and Top-10 watch lists. Arioto was also named to the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American First Team and was placed on the All-Pac-10 first team.