The USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) opened the 2019 season with a 6-1 win over the Chicago Bandits before dropping a 7-3 decision to the USSSA Pride.
Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) went yard twice in Team USA’s win over the Bandits and while Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) had a 2-for-3 showing at the plate in the loss against the Pride.
“Anytime that you can get some games in against some quality players like we did today, it lends itself to bringing us together faster,” said Head Coach Ken Eriksen.
“We were able to get some work in, had some good at bats and were able to get four of our pitchers in today. I liked what I saw today and how we competed all the way until the last out.”
Game One: USA 6, Chicago 1
The U.S. looked to score early as Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) singled and moved to second on a walk to Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) with two outs, but a popup ended the top half of the inning.
Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) got the start in the circle for the Red, White and Blue, quickly issuing a strikeout before back-to-back walks put two on with one out. A pair of strikeouts kept the runners at bay, keeping the game scoreless.
Both sides threatened through the next few innings of play until Team USA took the lead in the top of the fourth inning.
A leadoff walk put a runner on with one out, but back-to-back grounders failed to advance a runner to second until a two-strike single from Jazmyn Jackson (San Jose, Calif.) put two runners in scoring position.
A passed ball allowed Sahvanna Jaquish (Highland, Calif.) to score the first run of the game before McCleney blasted a ball over the right field fence for a two-run home run. A double from Reed looked to continue the momentum, but a nice defensive snag on a hard-hit line drive by Aguilar kept the score 3-0, USA.
The long ball added to the U.S. lead in the top of the fifth inning after Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) sent another shot over the right field fence with a runner on base.
Leading 5-0, McCleney sent another ball out of the park in the top of the sixth to add the final run of the game for Team USA. Chicago responded in the bottom of the frame with a run of their own, but the U.S. would go on to earn the 6-1 win.
A pair of Olympians shined in the circle for the Red, White and Blue as both Abbott and Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) limited Chicago to just three hits. Abbott tossed the first four innings, fanning eight batters en route to the win. Osterman finished the remaining three innings, striking out five with one unearned run.
Game Two: USA 3, Pride 7
A leadoff single by Reed followed by a two-run long ball by Aguilar quickly put Team USA up 2-0, but three singles and a pair of hit batters in the bottom of the second eliminated that lead as the U.S. trailed by one.
A two-out rally by the U.S. offense in the top of the third looked to tie up the game as a single by Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) put one on base with two outs. Garcia legged out a ground ball to safely reach second on a fielder’s choice and a walk to Shelby Pendley (Rio Rancho, N.M.) loaded the bases before a strikeout ended the threat with no runs crossing the plate.
In their next at-bat, Team USA tied up the ballgame after a leadoff walk to Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.). A grounder advanced Merritt to second base for Stewart, who drove a ball to the left field fence for a standup double to allow Merritt to score.
A four-run fourth inning by the Pride would ultimately prove difficult to overcome for the U.S. Utilizing four singles, a double and a sac-fly, the Pride jumped to a 7-3 lead that would hold through the remaining three innings of play.
Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) suffered the loss for Team USA, pitching the first four innings before Ally Carda (Pleasanton, Calif.) entered in the fifth.
Team USA is set for another doubleheader on Saturday, June 15. First up, a 3 p.m. CT rematch against the USSSA Pride followed by a 7 p.m. contest against the Chicago Bandits.