Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Summer 'Mutts'

US softball team rocks Venezuela 11-0 at Beijing

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[August 12, 2008]  BEIJING (AP) -- Four years later, Olympic softball remains lopsided.

The U.S. team began its run toward a fourth straight gold medal in record-breaking fashion as Jennie Finch pitched four no-hit innings and Andrea Duran drove in three runs, powering the Americans to an 11-0 rout of Venezuela in their Olympic opener on Tuesday.

DonutsNatasha Watley hit a two-run homer, Crystl Bustos hit a solo shot and Caitlin Lowe added an inside-the-parker as the U.S. set an Olympic record for runs in a game. And they did it in just five innings before the game was halted by the run-rule.

It was a dominant performance like the ones the U.S. team strung together at the Athens Games in 2004.

"We were so amped up when we got here," Bustos said. "We couldn't wait to get this started. We're sick of practice."

The Americans figure to be challenged in China, but it wasn't by the Venezuelans who were run off the field in their Olympic debut.

Following pregame introductions and the traditional gift exchange between the teams, U.S. coach Mike Candrea gathered his team near their dugout and shouted, "Who do you play for?"


"U-S-A," shouted the world's top-ranked team.

Then, the Americans went out and played like it.

They threatened in their first at-bat, but after putting two runners on with none out, the U.S. couldn't push a run across against Johana Gomez, who plays for Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa.

It's safe to say she's never seen a lineup like this one, and the U.S. displayed its top-to-bottom depth and speed while scoring four runs in the second.

Duran was hit by a pitch leading off and raced to third on Stacey Nuveman's single. Lovieanne Jung followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.

One out later, Watley drilled a two-run homer to center field and as she rounded the bases, her teammates danced out of the dugout to welcome her at home plate. Moments later, they were back on the field.

Lowe reached out and poked a lazy fly that left fielder Rubilena Rojas misjudged and sailed over her head. Rojas stumbled and fell while trying to track it down, and by the time she got to the ball, the lightning-fast Lowe was nearly crossing the plate.

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Nursing Homes

The U.S. added two runs in the third, highlighted by Bustos' homer.

Four years ago in Greece, the U.S. were softball goddesses. They obliterated the tournament field, outscoring the other seven teams 51-1 to win their third consecutive gold medal. The Americans were hailed as "The Real Dream Team" after the U.S. men's hoops team fell flat on its high-profiled face and went home with a bronze.

With 10 players back from the '04 squad, the U.S. is expected to roll again.

However, the road to gold is paved with potential potholes as Japan, Australia, China and Canada all have enough talent to hang with the Americans.

Things should get much tougher for the U.S. on Wednesday when it faces longtime nemesis Australia. It will be a rematch of the gold-medal game in Athens, which the U.S. won 5-1.

In the tournament opener, Canada defeated Taiwan 6-1. Laura Bay Regula allowed just one hit in five innings and Megan Timpf drove in three runs for the Canadians, who scored just six runs while finishing fifth in '04.

[Associated Press; By TOM WITHERS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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