Saturday, September 23|
Americans hope their slump is over
BLACKTOWN, Australia -- Lisa Fernandez homered and had an
easy time in the pitcher's circle, too, leading the United States
to a 6-0 victory over Italy on Saturday and putting the Americans
in the softball medal round.
Heavily favored coming in, the U.S. team had lost three
consecutive games and was on the brink of elimination before
winning its last two to scrape into the playoffs. It will play
China on Monday.
Fernandez recorded each of the first six outs on strikeouts,
allowing one hit. After the United States (4-3) took a 4-0 lead in
the top of the third, Christa Williams relieved Fernandez so the
American ace could rest for the playoffs.
Williams pitched five perfect innings in relief, striking out
the side in the seventh to end the game.
The defending Olympic champions arrived in Sydney with a
110-game winning streak, extending it to 112 before their
unprecedented losing streak. To repeat as gold medalists, they now
have to beat the three teams that beat them in the round-robin -- China, Japan and Australia.
Coach Ralph Raymond juggled his lineup for the game against
Italy (2-5), which needed to win to make the medal round.
He used the designated hitter for left-fielder Christie Ambrosi
and had Fernandez bat for herself, which he doesn't usually do when
she's pitching, so that she try to work out of a 1-for-22 slump. It
would also allow her to come back in in relief if the Americans
Sheila Douty, who was in a 4-for-22 slump, dropped in the
The Americans, who were hitting .188 as a team, responded.
After scoring a run in the second without a hit, they broke it
open when Laura Berg reached on an error and Fernandez followed
with a long homer to centerfield.
She celebrated by dropping her bat and pausing before starting
off to first base, pumping her fist once along the way. Her
teammates waited for her at home plate with handshakes and hugs.
Crystl Bustos doubled and scored to make it 4-0. Douty doubled
as the Americans scored twice to make it 6-0 in the sixth.
|Sheila Douty scores for the U.S., but it wasn't easy getting around Italian catcher Clelia Ailara.
U.S. softball ends skid, beats New Zealand
U.S. softball loses heartbreaker vs. Aussies