Oklahoma City — The USA Softball Women’s National Team opened its defense of the World Cup with a 9-1 run-rule victory over Venezuela on Thursday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Jennie Ritter (Dexter, Mich.) picked up the win for the U.S., allowing one run on three hits while striking out seven.
Venezuela took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Maria Soto led off with a solo home run to left field, but the lead would not last long as the USA stormed back with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) started a two out rally with a double to center field. Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) was intentionally walked, and both players advanced when Venezuela starter Mariangee Bogado was called for an illegal pitch. Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.), who was named MVP just a week ago at the Canada Cup, came through with a single up the middle that plated both runners for a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the second inning Lauren Lappin (Anaheim, Calif.) led off with a single, advanced to second on an error by the pitcher, and then to third on an illegal pitch. A sacrifice fly by Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) scored Lappin for the third run of the game, but the U.S. offense was just getting started.
Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) followed with a triple to left field and scored on the third illegal pitch of the game. Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.) kept the offensive attack going with a bunt single, and Bustos followed with the hit of the game as she launched a home run that one hopped the 300-foot fence at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Johana Gomez entered in relief to slow down the USA offense. She was able to hold the powerful Red, White and Blue offense scoreless in the bottom of the third inning but did not fair as well in the fourth.
Watley collected her second triple of the day with a laser down the right field line to lead off the bottom of the inning. She scored on a sacrifice fly by Galindo. Bustos reached base for the third time in the game as she was hit by a pitch. Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) came in to pinch run, but she didn’t to get to utilize her speed as Kelly Kretschman (Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.) launched a home run to left field that gave the U.S. the runs it needed to end the game early.
Alicia Hollowell (Suisun, Calif.) closed out the game in the circle for the U.S., allowing one hit and striking out two.
Watley and Flowers paced the USA at the plate as they each went 2-for-3. Flowers, Bustos and Kretschman each contributed two RBI to the effort.
The U.S. returns to action Friday evening at 7 p.m. CST when it takes on China in a game televised on ESPN.