The bad news was that the shutout streak of five games ended in Game 7 of the WSBC World Championship and Team USA actually trailed for the first time in the event.
But that was all minor compared to the fact that the team clinched the top spot in its pool.
Here's a report of last night's game with information supplied by USA Softball...
On a day where the rain and winds picked up throughout Japan, the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) persevered and stayed focused despite a change in schedule, going on to claim a 8-1 (five innings) victory over previously-unbeaten Puerto Rico to finish pool play with a 7-0 record at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Championship.
“I thought our team was very resilient and professional in the conditions we were playing in today,” said Head Coach Ken Eriksen in the postgame press conference. “The players were mentally tough and didn’t allow the conditions to bother them or the change in schedule. That says a lot about this team… We haven’t done anything yet."
"We’ve positioned ourselves for the playoff rounds… We’re staying within what we do as USA. We’re not going to change our approaches. There isn’t any one team in the world that makes us do anything different. We’re going to still do what we do.”
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) was strong in the circle, fanning Puerto Rico’s 1-2-3 batters to start the game. Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) and Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) would reach on walks, but the two would be stranded as the U.S. offense came up scoreless through the first.
A solo shot in the top of the second inning by Karla Claudio gave Puerto Rico an early 1-0 lead, but it wouldn’t last long as Team USA answered back in the bottom of the third frame by plating four runs.
McCleney doubled before a RBI single from Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) tied the game. As a result, Puerto Rico would make a pitching change from Aleshia Ocasio to Meghan King, but a pair of wild pitches would allow Aguilar to take third.
One out later, Arioto was intentionally walked to put runners on the corners for Sahvanna Jaquish (Highland, Calif.), who came up big and delivered a three-run home run which gave Team USA the 4-1 lead.
Shutting down the Puerto Rican offense in the top of the fourth, the Red, White and Blue added to their lead in the bottom half. With Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) and Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) on second and third with one out, Aguilar hammered one over centerfield to extend the lead, 7-1.
Abbott collected another three strikeouts in the top of the fifth before a walk-off RBI single from Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) sealed Team USA’s 8-1 (five innings) win over Puerto Rico.
Abbott finished with 11 strikeouts and only allowed a solo home run through five innings of work. Aguilar (2-for-3) and Jaquish (2-for-3) collected four and five RBI, respectively, including each of their home runs.
Team USA will have a day off before returning to the diamond on Friday, August 10 at 3:30 pm JT (1:30 am CT) to face the No. 2 team in Group B. Live stats will be available through USASoftball.com.
The softball flagship competition will feature 73 games across 10 days of competition. The top four finishers from each group will advance to the double page playoff round, while nations not advancing will compete in the placement round.
The World Championship finale will take center stage on August 12 at 7 pm JST following the bronze medal match at 2 p.m. JST. The top nation will claim the first of five available softball spots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with Japan qualifying automatically as the host country.