U.S. wins World Cup of Softball
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Samantha Fischer doubled in two runs, Michelle Moultrie circled the bases after dropping a bunt just in front of home plate and the U.S. beat Australia 3-0 Monday night to win the World Cup of Softball championship.
Jackie Traina, Jordan Taylor, Keilani Ricketts combined on a one-hit shutout and the Americans capitalized on two Australian miscues to score all their runs.
"We talk about playing flawless softball and the team that breaks first is the team that's not going to have the best opportunity to win," coach Ken Eriksen said.
"At this level, you've got to be flawless. You've got to avoid the walks, you've got to avoid the errors and you've got to get two-out hits with runners in scoring position. We did that tonight."
The title was the first building block of the summer as the U.S. chases its eighth straight world championship -- the best the sport has to offer after getting dropped from the Olympics starting with this year's London Games.
That's the bigger quest for softball now. The sport's leaders are trying to get the IOC to vote in 2013 to include softball in the 2020 Games.
The IOC voted in 2005 to drop softball largely because there weren't enough countries playing it. There still is a gap between the top teams -- the U.S. and Japan, which skipped the World Cup for financial reasons -- and the rest of the world, but Eriksen sees it closing.
The Netherlands, never before a softball power, made a strong showing and finished fourth. The Dutch overcame a six-run deficit before blowing a lead in the seventh inning of an 11-8 loss to Canada in the third-place game.
The U.S. trailed the Dutch earlier in the week before a late-inning rally. Games against Canada, Brazil and Puerto Rico ended in run-rule victories.
"It's a worldwide sport and we have to play flawless softball to beat these teams now. We just can't go on the field like we might have done 16 years ago, throw your gloves out there and expect to win. That doesn't happen anymore," Eriksen said. "The world's catching up, NCAA softball's catching up, there's a lot of parity. The opportunities for women have been tremendous.
"The shame of the matter and the broken-heartedness of the whole deal is there's probably more parity now than there ever has been before and we're not going to get to see it worldwide, on the biggest stage there ever is."
It was only because of a couple Australian mistakes that the U.S. squeaked out this championship.
Australian center fielder Verity Long-Droppert broke inward on Fischer's line drive with two outs in the first and let the ball get over her head. Kaitlin Cochran and Stacy May-Johnson raced around to score.
Moultrie then raced all the way around to score when third baseman Stacey Porter fielded her bunt single and her throw to first sailed into right field and rolled along the wall.
"In big games like this, anytime they give you a little bit, you have to take as much as you can and try to do what you can for your team," said Moultrie, the speedy SEC player of the year from Florida.
Leigh Godfrey had the only hit for the Australians when she dropped in a looping single down the left-field line with one out in the fourth against Traina.
The Americans will next head to the Canadian Open, with a showdown against top rival Japan looming on Saturday. The Japanese won the gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but have lost to the U.S. in the past three world championship title games, most recently in 2010.
This year's world championships will be played in Canada starting July 13 and wrapping up just before the Olympics begin -- without the Americans, or any other softball team, in them.
"I'm not going to make any bones about it, but the pinnacle of our sport is the gold medal, and there's other sports in the Olympics that that's not their pinnacle," Eriksen said.
"For us, that's the pinnacle -- the gold medal -- and we've got to get back to it."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press