Natasha Watley and Lisa Fernandez Dominate as USA Softball Wins World Championships

Aug. 5, 2002

Saskatoon, SK, Canada - Bruin senior Natasha Watley scored the gold medal-winning run as Leah O'Brien-Amico hit an RBI-double in the third inning and Lisa Fernandez made the run hold as the United States won the Women's World Softball Championship Sunday afternoon with a 1-0 decision over Japan.

It is the fifth consecutive Women's World Championship for the U.S., which finished the tournament 10-0, and the seventh overall World title for the USA Softball Women's National Team program. Along with the World Championship trophy, Sunday's victory also carried with it the #1 seed to the 2004 Olympic Games.

Fernandez, who finished with a three-hitter, took a perfect game into the top of the sixth, before Haruka Saito started that inning with a single through the left side of the infield. Fernandez, picking up her fourth win of the tournament, didn't allow a walk and had one strikeout.

'I just pitched tonight and let my defense make the plays,' said Fernandez. 'Our defense is what won this championship for us.'

'Lisa was outstanding today,' said USA head coach Mike Candrea. 'The mental toughness she possesses is unmatched in this game. She is a true warrior.'

Japan finished the tournament 9-2 and secured the silver medal, while Chinese Taipei (8-3) took home the bronze. China, which finished fourth, also joined the three medalists as automatic qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics.

Starting pitcher Juri Takayama took the loss for Japan, scattering five hits in four innings. Yukiko Ueno worked the final two innings, giving up one hit and striking out one batter.

O'Brien-Amico's game-winning hit was setup by Natsha Watley (Irvine, Calif.), who singled to left with one out in the bottom of the third and moved into scoring position with a stolen base. O'Brien-Amico then looped a ball to shallow right-center that allowed Watley to score.

'I knew if I could get the ball through the infield that Natasha could score and that would give us the momentum we needed to hang on,' O'Brien-Amico said.

Watley, an offensive juggernaut for the U.S. throughout the tournament, finished the gold medal game 3-for-3, which helped her establish a Team USA record for hits, 16, in a World Championship tournament. She closed out the tournament with a .516 batting average (16-for-31) and scored ten runs, both team-high standards.

Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.) had two hits for the U.S. Sunday, the only other player to record a multi-hit game.

Despite being stymied by Fernandez for the first six innings, Japan made a dash in its final at-bat to put one final bit of drama into the contest. With one out, Masumi Mishina singled to center and, one out later, Noriko Yamaji singled to right to put runners on the corners. An ensuing pop out to shortstop, however, ended the threat and the game.

The USA Softball Women's National Team has now won the past five World Championships, the past four Pan American Games and the only two Olympic softball competitions. The program has not lost a major international tournament over the past 19 years.

'The performance by this team here at the World Championship is a glimpse into the future of USA Softball,' said Candrea. 'Almost every game a different player stepped up and contributed to the success of this team. Winning this gold medal was a total team effort.'

Goldberg's RBI-single in the ninth sends USA to gold medal game of Women's World Softball Championship

Saskatoon, SK, Canada -- Teri Goldberg (Ft. Collins, Colo.) delivered a pinch-hit RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth inning to push the United States past Japan 1-0 Saturday night in the playoffs of the Women's World Softball Championship.

'I've known since this tournament started that pinch-hitting was one of my main roles, and I'm just glad I could come through tonight,' Goldberg said.

The United States, which improved to 9-0 at the tournament and is looking to win its fifth consecutive World Championship, earned an automatic berth into Sunday's gold medal game, which will be played at 1:30 p.m. Team USA's opponent won't be decided until Sunday morning, but the three teams vying for the other championship game slot are Japan, China and Chinese Taipei.

''It was a great team effort tonight, from top to bottom,' said USA head coach Mike Candrea (Casa Grande, Ariz.). 'Teri's sitting there waiting for a chance to come into the game and contribute and she cashed in on the opportunity.'

With Michele Smith (Califon, N.J.) starting the bottom of the ninth on second base due to the international tie-breaker, Goldberg hit a high, hard chopper back up the middle of the diamond for a single that allowed Smith to score the game-ending run.

Goldberg's success ended a drought for both teams that saw squandered opportunities throughout the contest. The United States stranded 12 runs on the bases, while Japan countered with seven stranded runners.

The biggest missed opportunity for the U.S. came in the fifth. Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) and Leah O'Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, Calif.) stroked successive one-out singles, but Berg was thrown out at the plate trying to score on O'Brien-Amico's hit to right field. An ensuing groundout ended the inning.

Counting the runners placed on base during the two extra-innings, Japan worked a runner to at least second base in the seven of the game's nine innings, while the U.S. had a runner on at least second in six of the frames.

On two occasions, the fourth and fifth innings, Japan had a runner standing on third, but was unable to generate a run off U.S. pitcher Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, Calif.).

'We had a lot of opportunities to score tonight and were unable to cash in on them,' said Fernandez. 'We had to stay positive and wait for our break and it came with Teri's pinch-hit up the middle.'

Fernandez, who went the full duration, as did her counterpart, Hiroko Sakai, picked up her third win of the tournament on a four-hitter with two walks (one intentional) and 10 strikeouts.

Sakai finished with eight hits allowed, three walks and five strikeouts.

Watley and Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) each had two hits for the U.S.

Big hitters for Japan were Noriko Yamaji and Haruka Saito, who each doubled for the only extra-base hits of the game.

'Everyone worked very hard for this win tonight,' Candrea said. 'We've got to carry this momentum into tomorrow's final and finish this championship with a win.'

United States opens Women's World Softball Championship playoffs with 4-3 win over Australia

Saskatoon, SK, Canada-- In its toughest test of the tournament, the United States won its opening playoff game 4-3 over Australia at the Women's World Softball Championship Friday night at Bob Van Impe Stadium.

The win not only improved the U.S. to 8-0 at the tournament, it secured a berth for the United States in the 2004 Olympic Games, as the top four teams from the World Championship are guaranteed a spot in the Summer Games.

'A berth to the Olympics is great, but we're here to win a gold medal and anything less will be a disappointment,' said U.S. catcher Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.), who drove in two runs with a single in the fifth.

Seeking its fifth consecutive World Championship title, Team USA advances in the winner's bracket to face the winner of the Japan-China game, being played later Friday night. The U.S.-Japan/China game will be played Saturday at 6:30 p.m., with the winner of that game moving straight to Sunday's gold medal contest.

Australia, 6-2 overall, drops to the loser's bracket and will face Chinese Taipei in an elimination game Saturday at 2 p.m.

The game continued a string of close contests between the two rivals, as seven of the last eight games in the series, including Friday's game, have been decided by one run.

With Team USA holding a 4-0 advantage, Australia pulled out a three-run sixth, chasing U.S. starter Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) from the game in the process. Finch was still credited with the win, her second of the tournament, while Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, Calif.) picked up the save.

Team USA scored twice in the fourth and fifth innings to build up its lead.

In the fourth, Fernandez generated an RBI on a groundout, and Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, Calif.) added a sacrifice fly to center. Fernandez' groundout scored Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.), who legged out an infield single and eventually moved to third on successive wild pitches. Jung's sacrifice fly scored Nuveman, who was intentionally walked, moved to second on the Fernandez groundout and took third on a deep fly out to right from Nina Lindenberg (Anaheim Hills, Calif.).

Nuveman drove in both runs during the fifth, when her two-out single to left scored Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) and Leah O'Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, Calif.). The two-run single also forced Australia starter Brooke Wilkins out of the game. Wilkins, who took the loss, was replaced by Tanya Harding.

Two doubles that rattled around in the left-field corner provided most of the damage that Australia inflicted in the sixth, as it posted the first runs of the tournament allowed by the United States.

Fiona Hanes started the inning with her double and then an infield error at shortstop on a ball hit by Natalie Ward put runners on the corners. Sandra Allen then sent her double to the corner, and both runners scampered home. Fernandez entered the game at that point and, two batters later, gave up an RBI-single to Peta Edebone that accounted for the final run of the game.

'A couple of breaks went their way tonight and that allowed them to get back into the game,' said USA head coach Mike Candrea. 'I thought Lisa's pitching performance was huge, coming in and stopping the rally.'

Australia had an excellent opportunity to post an early lead when it loaded the bases with just one out in the top of the second, but a double-play, fueled by poor decisions on the basepaths, ended the frame. On a shallow fly ball hit to center, Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) made a shoestring catch and, with all of Australia's runners in motion, threw the ball to Nuveman at the plate, who chased down the runner and placed on the inning-ending tag halfway between third and home.

After escaping the second inning, Finch retired the next nine batters she faced before Hanes' lead-off double in the sixth.

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