June 23, 2001
Honolulu, HI - It wasn't pretty, and it was probably somewhat painful for Bruin sophomore Tairia Mims (Tucson, AZ), but the U.S. rallied in the top of the seventh inning to defeat China 4-1 in the final game of the day at the U.S. Cup at University of Hawaii's Wahine Softball Stadium. With the win, the U.S.emerges as the only unbeaten team remaining in the four-team field, improving to 2-0, and secures its spot in Sunday's gold medal game. China is now 1-1.
With the bases loaded, Mims was hit by a pitch to force Nicole Giordano (Saugus, CA) home with the eventual winning run. The U.S. tied the game earlier in the inning when UCLA sophomore Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) scored on a bloop single from Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA). Watley ignited the game-winning rally when she legged out an infield single.
Giordano followed with an infield single that allowed Watley to advance all the way to third base when China's first baseman dropped the ball after an successful try on Giordano. Mendoza followed with the team's third consecutive hit, and the surge continued as UCLA junior Amanda Freed (Cypress, CA) later drew a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Mims.
The final two runs of the inning came on another China error, as the second baseman dropped the ball on an attempted force out at the bag on a ball hit by Toni Mascarenas (Garden Grove, CA). That play allowed both Mendoza and Freed to cross the plate.
Prior to capitalizing on the bountiful seventh inning, Team USA had left the bases loaded two previous times, and also had runners on third base in three additional innings.
China scored its run in the bottom of the first when Zhang Chunfang scored from third on a double-steal. Chunfang started the inning with a single, moved to second on an error and advanced to third on a botched pick-off play involving a runner at first base. Chunfang scored when Lin Li, who had reached on a fielder's choice, stole second, drawing a throw from the catcher.
An attempted rally from China in the bottom of the seventh was snuffed by a stellar Team USA defensive play. With one out and Xu Jian on second, she opened the frame with a double, U.S. second baseman Lovieanne Jung (Westminster, CA) made a diving stop on a ball hit into the right-side gap by Ye Xiaohe. Jung then made a throw to Bruin junior catcher Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, CA), who put the tag on Jian trying to score from second and then promptly whipped the ball to Watley, who chased down Xiaohe who was trying to advance to second.
UCLA freshman pitcher Keira Goerl (Moreno Valley, CA) picked up the victory, working a complete game four-hitter with one walk and seven strikeouts. Zhang Yanquing got the loss for China, also pitching a complete game, allowing eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
For China, Xiaohe finished with two hits. Watley finished the game with three hits for the U.S., including a double, while Giordano picked up a pair of hits.
Team USA closes out the round-robin portion of its schedule Saturday at 11 p.m. (EST) against Australia. China will play Japan at 9 p.m. (EST). Medal games will be played Sunday, with the bronze-medal game starting at 7 p.m. (EST), followed by the gold-medal game at 9 p.m. (EST).