USA Softball Defends US Cup Championship

July 9, 2002

Honolulu, HI - A seventh-inning rally vaulted the United States to a 1-0 win over Japan in the gold medal game of the U.S. Cup Sunday afternoon at University of Hawaii's Wahine Softball Stadium. Former Bruin Lisa Fernandez earned the complete game win in the circle.

'This was obviously a great win for this team against a very good Japan team,' said USA head coach Mike Candrea. 'It's not time to celebrate too much, because we still have a lot of work to do to get prepared for the upcoming World Championship.'

With two outs in the top of the final inning, Leah O'Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, CA) singled down the third base line and scored when Jessica Mendoza(Camarillo, CA) doubled off the wall in right-center.

O'Brien-Amico finished the game with two hits, as did Mendoza and Teri Goldberg (Ft. Collins, CO)

'Leah got things started for us in the seventh, and Mendoza came up with the clutch-hit after getting down in the count 1-2,' said Candrea. 'We were just a hit away from cashing in on multiple scoring opportunities.'

The score did ended a string of missed chances, as Team USA, which stranded nine baserunners, had players in scoring position in each of the game's first five innings.

The biggest U.S. scoring threats came in the top of the second and fourth innings, when it worked runners to the corners with just one out.

Nina Lindenberg (Anaheim Hills, CA) started the second inning rush by reaching on an error and Goldberg followed with a single down the third-base line. A fielder's choice from Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) forced Goldberg out at second, but moved Lindenberg to third before the final two outs.

In the fourth, Goldberg, with one out, singled to left field and made the move to second when the softball rolled through the outfielder's legs. Jung followed with a flare single just over first base that pushed Goldberg to third, but, again, the Team Japan defense held and retired the next two batters.

Japan's lone scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the third, when singles from Reika Utsugi, Masumi Mishina and Naomi Arai loaded the bases with one out, but a strikeout and a lineout to center ended the threat.

Those three singles created the only baserunners allowed by U.S. starter Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA), who finished the game with four strikeouts.

'This game was a sign of what's to come from USA Softball,' said Fernandez. 'We are not a team that relies on just one player. The young kids are stepping up, and that's what we need to have happen.

'This team is learning that you have to keep fighting until you can get some breaks, and that's what we did today.'

Yukiko Ueno, who entered the game in the top of the seventh and was the third Team Japan pitcher of the game, took the loss. Juri Takayama started the game for Japan and was relieved by Hiroko Sakai in the top of the fourth.

'Overall, I thought we had an excellent team effort during this entire tournament, and that's what we needed,' said Candrea. 'Now it's time to turn our focus to the Canada Cup and get better every day as a team.'

The Canada Cup, the final pre-World Championship tune-up tournament, runs July 13-21 in Surrey, British Columbia.

Final standings for the U.S. Cup tournament are: gold medalist, United States (4-1), which also won last year's inaugural tournament; silver medalist, Japan (4-1); bronze medalist, Australia (2-3), fourth-place, China (2-4) and fifth-place, Canada (1-4).

Team USA advanced to the championship game following a 3-0 win over China on Saturady night. Single runs in the bottom of the third, fourth and fifth innings carried the the win.

'I thought tonight was a solid performance,' said USA head coach Mike Candrea. 'Although we left eight runners on base, we were able to cash in on some good opportunities.'

In the third, Jessica Mendoza(Camarillo, CA) doubled down the left-field line to score Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA), who started the inning with an infield single and stole one of her two bases on the night.

Nina Lindenberg (Anaheim Hills, CA) led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run down the left-field line for the second score of the game, and Team USA's final run came in the fifth when Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) singled through the left side of the infield to score Mendoza. Mendoza reached scoring position after drawing a walk and stealing second.

Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) had the only other hit for the U.S.

Mu Xiawent three-for-three for China, while teammate Tao Huahad two hits.

Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) went the full seven innings inside the circle for the United States, scattering seven hits while striking out eight and walking three.

'I thought Jennie Finch's performance was very solid tonight given that she hasn't pitched in quite a while, said Candrea. 'They were able to get some runners on but she was able to work out of every situation.'

China's starting pitcher, Zhang Yanqing, took the loss. She worked four innings and gave up two earned runs. Zhang Lixia worked two innings of relief, allowing one hit and one earned run.

The U.S. closes out round-robin play with a 3-1 record, while China went 1-3. Final standings for the round-robin, and the seeding for the playoffs, are: 1. Japan(4-0), 2. USA(3-1), 3. Australia(1-3), 4. Canada(1-3), 5. China(1-3).

The United States will play Japan for the tournament title Sunday at 3 p.m.China will open the playoff action tonight with a game against Canada. The winner of the China-Canada game will face Australia Sunday at 1 p.m. in the bronze medal game.

'We came here to be in the championship game and that's where we are', said Candrea. We look forward to facing Japan again tomorrow in the final game.'

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