OKLAHOMA CITY — When Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) announced she was retiring from the women’s national team following the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball, July 22-26, in Oklahoma City, many questioned the future for the USA Softball program. Friday afternoon at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Stadium, a group of mostly inexperienced international athletes gave fans the answer. The future is in good hands. 

The USA Softball Women’s Futures National Team topped ISF World Bronze Medalists from Canada, 5-4, for their first win of the season, shortly before the USA Softball Women’s National Team topped 2008 Olympic Champion Japan 5-0. In the nightcap, Japan topped Canada 1-0 in eight innings, the first extra inning game of the World Cup. 

“Getting our first win felt great,” said Futures starting pitcher Angela Tincher (Eagle Rock, Va.). “It’s very exciting to just be here at the World Cup and a part of this team. We have great offense and great defense and it’s fun to pitch in a situation like that. We are taking steps everyday to get better and that’s our goal for the week.” 

The Futures have only played three other games together, falling twice to Team USA in exhibitions and once on the World Cup opening night to Japan. On Saturday, they play Team USA at 11 a.m., a game aired on a two-hour tape delay by ESPN, and also face Canada at 9 p.m. 

Tincher earned the win, allowing eight hits while striking out six in six innings, with newcomer Jessica Purcell-Fitu (Walnut, Calif.) tying the game in the sixth with a two-RBI single. A throwing error in the sixth from two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie, the third of four pitchers used for Canada, allowed the winning run to cross the plate for the Futures. 

“I think it’s a terrific win for the Futures and for USA Softball,” said Head Coach Kate Drohan (Evanston, Ill.). “We made some key plays down the stretch. We started playing like we know how. We really understood how to grab the momentum and come away with a win.” 

There were four lead changes with Canada rotating through its pitching staff in an attempt to stop the Futures bats, responsible for nine hits. The defense was also there for Futures. In the fifth, Brittany Lastrapes (Laguna Niguel, Calif.), Molly Johnson (Tucson, Ariz.) and Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) turned a double play to end the inning. 

“There were some key defensive plays for sure,” she said. “As we got a rally going, we had people who extended the rally with a key walk, by putting the ball in play and putting pressure on with our speed. Then someone comes up with a big hit to score two.” 

Canada struck first in the second inning scoring one run off Tincher. Sheena Lawrick led off with a single, advancing to second off a sac bunt by Jen Salling. A double by Erin Cumpstone plated Lawrick giving Canada a 1-0 lead. 

The United States took the lead back in the fourth inning, scoring two runs off Tina Andreana who entered in relief of starter Jenna Caira. With runners on second and third, off walks and a wild pitch, a single Johnson scored Arioto. Jenae Leles (Sacramento, Calif.), who was the second walk of the inning, scored the go ahead run off a single by Katelyn Boyd (Phoenix, Ariz.). 

The defense of the Futures had two phenomenal back-to-back innings in the fourth and fifth to keep Canada from crossing home plate. In the fourth, Kaleigh Rafter singled to left field with Lawrick heading for home but a great throw from Lastrapes to catcher Fitu stopped the run from scoring. In the fifth Lastrapes was a part of another great defensive play when the team turned a double play. A diving catch by Lastrapes recorded the first out and she tossed the ball to shortstop Johnson to leave runners stranded. 

Canada took back the lead in the top of the sixth off of an RBI single by Lawrick and two-run homerun by Salling but would not hold it for long as the United States scored three runs of their own in what would be the deciding 5-4 score. 

With the 4-2 lead, Lawrie came in to pitch in the sixth inning. Fitu unleashed a ball down the middle for a double that scored Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Arioto. Chavanne had entered as a pinch runner for Leles, who singled with one out. Arioto was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. 

“She did a terrific job behind the plate. She only had three days to get to know how pitchers, learn our game plan and get comfortable. She looked very comfortable,” Drohan said of Fitu, the last player added to the Futures roster. “Then for her to come up with a huge at bat, battle it out and get a huge hit with two strikes; that’s a big time play for us.” 

Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif.) made her first appearance of the World Cup in the top of the seventh and would be credited with a save. Jillian Russell doubled to left field and with a passed ball was within 60 feet of the tying run. However a groundout and fly out left the runner stranded. 

Tincher earned the win, working 6.0 innings with six strikeouts and allowing four earned runs. Lawrie took the loss for Team Canada allowing three earned runs. 

“They faced me a lot last week in our Canada exhibition games,” Tincher said. “I knew I had to come out sharp and work on my changeup. I tried to give them a different look and make sure I really delivered on my pitches since I know they have seen them recently.” 

The Women’s National Team made it a perfect day for the USA Softball, shutting out Japan 5-0 for the third consecutive time in the team’s third match up of the season. Team USA also topped Japan 4-0 in the semi-finals at the Women’s World Championship before topping them 7-0 in the Gold Medal Game. 

The game had more action than the scoreboard reflected. With bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Japan’s Naoko Matsumoto hit one to right field. Kaitlin Cochran (Yorba Linda, Calif.) made the catch and launched it to catcher Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.), just in time to tag Satoko Mabuchi at the plate for a double play. 

“I’m just glad I could get it to Lappin in time,” Cochran said. “All of the Japanese players are quick, they have great speed, so I knew I just had to throw it home quickly if we wanted to keep them scoreless. It got there just in time for her to make that great tag at home.” 

It ended a great game not only for the nine-time Women’s World Champions but also for Cochran, who homered to right center in the third, her second blast of the World Cup. 

"Cochran came up huge with that throw," said winning pitcher Finch, who allowed only four hits in what could be her final seven innings in the circle for the Red, White and Blue. "Awesome way to end it." 

Alissa Haber (Newark, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice in the second, bringing in Cochran, who singled to right field. A fielding error by the catcher Maki Tanigawa also allowed Chelsea Bramlett (Cordova, Tenn.) to score. In the sixth, Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) hit a two-RBI single, bringing in Finch and Andrea Duran (Selma, Calif.) to make it a 5-0 game. 

In the night cap at the World Cup, the scoreboard read zeros through seven innings before a bottom of the eighth rally by Japan allowed them a 1-0 victory. Winning pitcher Mika Someya earned her first World Cup victory tossing five innings, allowing just two hits in the game. 

Both teams connected offensively throughout the game, but failed to push a run across each leaving ten runners stranded. Canada loaded the bases in the top of the third inning but a Sheena Lawrick flyout ended their hopes of scoring. 

Japan threatened in the bottom of the fourth after Satoko Mabuchi reached on a single and advanced to second on a passed ball. Mabuchi went to third on a sacrifice bunt but Japan came up empty handed once again after Kaoru Oyanagi struck out swinging. 

With the international tie-breaker rule in effect, Canada advanced runner Caitlin Lever to third but Kaleigh Rafter grounded out to end the inning. 

Japan led the eighth with Y. Karino on second base before Canadian pitcher Jenna Caira intentionally walked Eri Yamada. Haruna Sakamoto then made Caira pay with a single to right field that plated Karino for the game winning run. 

Lever led all hitters with a 2-for-4 outing while four Japanese batters contributed one hit a piece.

- Courtesy USA Softball

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