In the last event of the year for the USA Softball Women’s National Team, Team USA dominated the Japan Cup with a 4-0 win early Sunday morning (US time) over the host country and showed it is not just the top team in the world entering 2019, but also the prohibitive favorite for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Because as long as Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) keeps being Monica Abbott and the USA squad has the pitching depth it currently has, no national team looks capable of slowing down the rolling Team USA train.
After defeating Japan 9-4 in a preliminary game on Saturday and recording a pair of shutouts over Chinese Taipei and Australia on Friday, The Red, White and Blue squad saw Abbott pitch seven shutout innings in the championship game as she allowed just two hits with 10 strikeouts against two walks.
The title match was scoreless until the 4th inning when Team USA put up a pair of runs thanks to a two-run home run by Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) off of losing pitcher Yamato Fujita, who went 4 2/3rd innings giving up three earned runs on four hits while recording six strikeouts and walking one.
The WNT doubled the lead in the top of the 5th when Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) hit her own two-run home run off of reliever Nozomi Ozaki.
USA had six hits spread out over six batters: along with the Spaulding and Chidester homers, Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.), Kirsti Merrit (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) and Sahvanna Jaquish (Highland, Calif.) each singled and Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) hit a double.
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
Here's the official USA Softball release on the Japan Cup title win:
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.), the 2018 Japan Cup Most Valuable Player (MVP), stifled the Japan offense while Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) and Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) each blasted two-run home runs as Team USA capped off the Japan Cup with a 4-0 win over Japan. Claiming the Japan Cup title with the win, the U.S. finished their 2018 international season with a perfect 20-0 record.
“First of all I am very proud of the way this team represented the game of softball and the USA Softball community,” said Women’s National Team Head Coach, Ken Eriksen. “This was a very good effort from 20 players that regained the Japan Cup Championship. To realize that this program went undefeated the entire summer and fall season in international competition is to realize something special. To win the Gold Medal at the International Cup, the Japan Cup, and the World Championship was one heck of a trifecta. The icing? Earning the qualifying spot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Now the work begins for next summer and our pursuit of the Pan American Games Gold Medal in Peru.”
Japan threatened early after retiring the U.S. offense in order in the top of the first inning. A leadoff double and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with one out, but Abbott fired back with a strikeout and a groundout ended the threat with the U.S. unscathed.
Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) singled with a line drive to center field in the top of the second inning for the first base runner of the game for Team USA, but a pop up ended the half inning. A leadoff single for Japan in the bottom of the inning put a runner on base, but Abbott and the U.S. defense kept the game scoreless.
The U.S. got on the board and never looked back in the top of the fourth inning. A two out walk to Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.), a team-leading 17th of the season, put one on with two outs for Spaulding. On her first pitch of the at-bat, Spaulding drove a ball over the right field fence for a two-run blast and put the U.S. up 2-0.
Chidester added to the lead in the top of the fifth inning with her two-run shot. Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) doubled with a fly ball to center with one out and two batters later Chidester drilled the ball over the fence, making it a four-run favor for the Americans.
From there, Abbott took care of the Japan offense with ease, retiring their offense in order through the next three innings of play.
In addition to Chidester, Merritt, Munro and Spaulding, Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) and Sahvanna Jaquish (Highland, Calif.) each recorded hits in the win. Abbott continued to do Abbott things – fanning 10 batters while allowing just two hits and two walks in a complete-game, shutout win to earn the Japan Cup MVP honor.
The conclusion of the Japan Cup brings the 2018 season to an end for the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT). In addition to the Japan Cup title, the U.S. also claimed: the USA Softball International Cup, won back-to-back World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s World Championships and qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Moultrie paced the U.S. offense all summer, hitting .478 (22-for-46) with 13 RBI, 13 runs scored and two home runs. Arioto drove in 19 runs and hit six home runs in the 2018 season, both team-leading, while Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) led with 20 runs scored on the season. From the circle, Abbott was a perfect 10-0 in the circle with 123 strikeouts.
Members of the USA Softball WNT, along with additional invitees, will now set their sights on the 2019 USA Softball WNT Selection Trials, which are slated for January 1-6 in Clearwater, Fla.
Here are recaps of the three games Team USA played in preliminary rounds leading up to the championship to end the Japan Cup with a 4-and-0 record. Reports courtesy of USA Softball…
GAME 3: USA 9, Japan 4
A solo home run by Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour, Fla.) in the top of the first inning set the tone for one of the softball world’s greatest rivalries as Team USA notched a 9-4 win over Japan in the final round-robin match-up of the preliminary rounds at the Japan Cup held in Takasaki City, Japan.
Using an experienced pitching staff and timely hitting, the U.S. was led by Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.), who had a 2-for-3 showing at the plate with four of the nine total RBI for the Red, White and Blue.
Kretschman started the game off with a bang, blasting a solo home run over the center field fence in her first at-bat of the game to put Team USA up 1-0. Stewart tacked on to the lead in the top of the second inning, driving in Aubree Munro with a double to center field to make it a two-run lead for the Red, White and Blue.
Japan responded with a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead in half. A pair of walks in that same inning looked to spark a rally by the home team, but Munro got the U.S. out of the jam by throwing out a runner on a steal attempt to third base to keep the 2-1 lead.
A pair of strikeouts and groundout in the top of the fourth inning brought Japan back to the plate where they tied up the game after a leadoff double and sac fly plated a run.
With the game tied up at two runs apiece, Japan looked to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff walk. Carley Hoover (Clemson, S.C.), who entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, quickly recorded two strikeouts to keep the runner at bay.
A single and hit batter loaded the bases with two outs, but Hoover picked up her third strikeout of the inning to squash the two-out rally attempt.
Team USA took advantage of back-to-back hit batters and a walk in the top of the sixth to load the bases with two outs. Taylor Edwards (Murietta, Calif.) delivered with a single to right field, plating two and regaining a two-run lead for the U.S. Japan once again cut the lead to one run in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single.
Leading the game 4-3, the U.S. broke the game open in their final at-bat of the contest.
Kretschman reached on an error and was lifted for a pinch runner as Kirsti Merritt entered the game. Merritt advanced to second after Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) was hit by a pitch and a sac bunt from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) put both runners in scoring position.
Merritt recorded the second out of the at-bat after attempting to go home on a sharply hit ground ball from Hannah Flippen (San Diego, Calif.), but that did not halt the U.S. offense as Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) drove a ball through the right side of the infield to plate two.
A walk to Delaney Spaulding loaded the bases for Edwards, who drove in another run on an infield ground ball. Stewart picked up another two RBI with a fly ball to left field, making it 9-3 in favor of Team USA heading into the bottom of the seventh.
A leadoff triple and RBI single was all the offense Japan could muster in their final at-bat as Team USA earned the 9-4 win.
In addition to Stewart, Edwards had a multi-RBI performance by driving in three runs for the U.S. From the circle, Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) got the start in the circle and tossed two and one-third scoreless innings, fanning two while walking one and allowing just one hit.
Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) allowed two runs, two walks and two hits in one inning of work, Danielle O’Toole (Upland, Calif.) struck out two with one earned run and three hits and Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) struck out one with one run allowed in one inning. Hoover earned the win for the U.S., tossing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts, one walk and two hits allowed.
GAME 2: USA 8, Australia 0 (six innings)
Monica Abbott delivered 13 strikeouts to shut out No. 4 Australia for an 8-0 (six innings) victory in the second game of the Japan Cup on Friday.
Team USA claimed another shutout victory over No. 4 Australia in their second game of the day as Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.), Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Hannah Flippen (San Diego, Calif.) picked up two RBI apiece, while Abbott earned the win for the Red, White and Blue.
A one-out walk to Spaulding in the bottom of the second inning started the first U.S. scoring rally. Two batters later, a pop fly from Reed was mishandled to score Spaulding, while a RBI double from Kirsti Merritt (Lake Pansoffkee, Fla.) put the home team on top, 2-0.
With two outs on a 3-2 count, Aguilar delivered for her team and blasted a two-run shot to right field to give the U.S. a 4-0 advantage after two innings.
Abbott kept the Australian offense off the base paths through their next two at-bats while Flippen continued her hot streak in the bottom half of the fourth inning, hitting a line drive to centerfield to plate both Merritt and Aguilar and make it 6-0.
That score stood until the bottom of the sixth inning when Arioto delivered a walk off, two-run home run to seal the 8-0, run-rule victory. Abbott earned the “W” after fanning 13 batters and allowing just three hits in her six innings of work.
GAME 1: USA 10, Chinese Taipei 0 (four innings)
The WNT defeated Chinese Taipei 10-0 (four innings), as the pitching duo of Danielle O’Toole (Upland, Calif.) and Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) combined to throw a no-hitter in the first contest for Team USA in the event.
Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) and Hannah Flippen (San Diego, Calif.) had multi-hit performances and led the team with four RBI apiece.
Janie Reed led off the first inning with a double to centerfield and a walk to Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour, Fla.) put two on for the U.S. The next at-bat, the Red, White and Blue scored first on an RBI single from Aguilar and then a walk to Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) loaded the bases.
A line drive to left field from Flippen plated Kretschman before Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) added to the U.S. lead with a sac fly to centerfield brought Aguilar home, making it 3-0.
Chinese Taipei had their sole base runner of the game reach first on a walk in the top of the second inning but three-straight strikeouts from O'Toole sent the U.S. offense back to the plate.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Reed took first on a hit by pitch and stole second before advancing to third on a groundout. A hard hit ball up the middle from Aguilar plated Reed before a single from Arioto put two on for Team USA.
A three-run home run from Flippen cleared the bases to give the U.S. a 7-0 lead. Before the inning's end, Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) reached first on an error, stole second and scored after an infield error by Chinese Taipei.
Another three-up, three-down inning kept Chinese Taipei scoreless in the top of the third, while Team USA added to their lead in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Reed and Kretschman reached on back-to-back walks before Aguilar tripled on a line drive to left field to make it 10-0 and ultimately seal the 10-0 victory for the U.S.
O'Toole earned the win for the Red, White and Blue, fanning five batters in three innings of work while Moore pitched the final inning for the U.S. and collected one strikeout to lock up the game. Both pitchers held Chinese Taipei hitless, the fifth no-hitter of the summer for Team USA.