USA, Japan Score Opening Wins in Softball World Cup

USA, Japan Score Opening Wins in Softball World Cup

OKAHOMA CITY – Even with its biggest star (Keilani Ricketts) no longer on the team, the USA Women’s National Team had more than enough to shutout the Canadian Women’s National Team 7-0 Thursday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in the second of two games in the opening round of the General Tire World Cup of Softball.

In the first game Thursday, Japan edged Australia 3-2 scoring a run in the fourth inning to break a 2-2 tie behind pitcher Yukiko Ueno. Ueno, who hurled Japan to the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, allowed nine hits and struck out seven in getting her first win of this World Cup and sixth overall. She didn’t issue any walks as Japan collected nine hits off three Australia pitchers.  Aimee Murch started for Australia and allowed four hits and two runs in one inning before being replaced by  Kaia  Parnaby who hurled three innings and allowed four hits and the third and eventual winning run.  Yuka Ichiguchi bunted home  Rie Nagayoshi from third base in the  top of the fourth inning for the winning run off Parnaby who came on in the fourth inning in relief of Murch.

Canada, which was the last team to beat the USA in the World Cup, 4-3 in 2011, managed only a pair of singles against the USA pitchers Sara Nevins and Jessica Moore. Nevins, who is a senior at South Florida, coached by USA National Team coach Ken Eriksen, allowed both of the hits in the third inning after Canada got its first runner in the second when Kelsey Habert walked.  Victoria Hayward got on with a bunt single with one out in the inning before leadoff hitter Joey Lyle singled to center.

But Nevins got the next two runners to end the threat with Canada going down in order in the fourth before former University of Oregon standout Jessica Moore replaced Nevins and hurled the fifth and sixth innings before the game was called because of the run-rule.  Nevins fanned four and walked one in four innings while Moore fanned  two of the six batters she retired in order.  

Jenna Caira started for Canada and allowed four runs in four innings, giving up four hits. One of those hits was a two-run single by former University of California standout Valerie Arioto in the top of the first inning, scoring Michelle Moultrie and Lauren Gibson. The USA expanded its lead to 4-0 in the second inning scoring Raven Chavanne on a throwing error by Joey Lyle and Gibson scoring on a double steal when the Canadian catcher threw to second trying to get Lauren Chamberlain on the steal attempt. Seeing the ball go through to second, Gibson raced home to score the fourth run.

Gibson accounted for the final two runs in the  sixth inning when she  hit the first homer of the World Cup over the left center field fence with two out off Sara  Plourde, who had replaced Caira in the fifth inning for Canada. Moments earlier pinch hitter Taylor Hoagland (University of Texas) had scored pinch hitter  Lindsey Ziegenhirt, who had walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Hoagland delivered the single and eventually scored on Gibson’s  homer.

Caira allowed four runs on four hits with five strikeouts in four innings of work, while newcomer Plourde (Fredericton, NB) pitched two innings of relief, allowing three runs – one earned – on four hits with two strikeouts.

Canada will hope to rebound when it plays Puerto Rico Friday at 11:30 a.m. before facing Japan at 2 p.m. The USA and Australia will play the third and concluding game Friday night at 7.  Since the loss to Canada in 2011, the USA National Team has won 10 consecutive games in the World Cup of Softball, which was started in 2005 and has been held every year but 2008 (Summer Olympics).

How long that streak continues remains to be seen considering Ricketts, who had been counted on to lead the USA in the circle, won’t be here for the event after failing to work out an agreement with USA Softball .  Ricketts said she wanted more time to make a decision and that she had planned everything around playing for Team USA this summer. “Of course I love playing in Oklahoma City in front of all the Sooner fans. I am sad that I can’t be there with the team,” Ricketts told the Norman TRANSCRIPT PRESS.

While staff members of USA Softball said Tuesday it was her decision to not play, Ricketts said that’s not the case. According to her, it was Team USA who told her she could not be on the field unless she signed a long-term contract with the organization.

“I was always committed for playing out the entire summer,” Ricketts said. “I had told Ronnie Isham (USA Softball National Team program director) and I had told coach Ken Eriksen that I was going to need the summer before I made any long-term decisions. We talked last week and they told me they wanted me to make a decision with the long-term contract before this summer even happens. I told them I just didn’t feel comfortable making a decision until after the summer was over. So they took that as a no. It sucks that it looks like I quit the team, but that wasn’t the case.’’