OKLAHOMA CITY – The 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flags opened Thursday at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., with the USA Softball women’s national team taking a decisive 9-0 win over Canada in six innings. American ace Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) struck out 16 of the 20 batters she faced, allowing the 2010 ISF Women’s World Championships bronze medalists only two hits. 

“Monica Abbott dominated,” Olympic Champion and Silver Medalist Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) said. “She is one of, if not the, best pitcher in the world. Watching her just strike out those batters, move the ball the way she moves it. I am so glad that she is on my team because I’ll tell you what, I’m one of those strikeouts.” 

The first game was more than just another win for the now nine-time women’s world champions, who claimed a seventh consecutive World Championship gold medal earlier this month. While the action marked the return to the World Cup for Mendoza, who sat out the 2009 season for the birth of her son Caleb, it marked the first of a five day farewell for her Olympic teammate Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.). 

Finch announced her retirement from international softball Tuesday, effective following the action in Oklahoma City, July 22-26. In her first at bat since the announcement, Finch knocked one over the left field fence, bringing in Mendoza, who had an RBI double. She smiled all the way home, cherishing one of the last highlights in a storied 10 year career with the women’s national team. 

“I’m just trying to enjoy the moment,” said Finch, who is retiring to spend time with husband Casey Daigle and 4-year-old son Ace. “Normally, I probably would have had a little bit more of a serious face running around the bases, being that early in the game but I just had to smile. It was like you can’t hold it in anymore. You’ve just got to enjoy the moment and that’s what I’m trying to do.” 

Finch’s blast was one of three home runs for Team USA. In the top of the third, Kaitlin Cochran (Yorba Linda, Calif.) hit a solo home run, making it a 4-0 game for the Red, White and Blue. Mendoza added a three run blast in the sixth to make it a 9-0 game. 

Danielle Lawrie, the two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year from the University of Washington, took the loss for Team Canada. She pitched 5.2 innings, giving up seven runs (four earned) off nine hits. Ashley Lanz allowed two hits off of two runs in relief. 

“I think (this game) is making a statement but we know every team is going to play us hard,” Mendoza said. “So as much as we beat them 9-0 tonight, Canada could come out a different team when we play them again this weekend. We play Japan tomorrow night. We know those games are really good games. There will continue to be some good softball.” 

In game 2 of the World Cup, the 2010 USA Softball Women’s Futures National Team made their international debut as a team against 2008 Olympic champion Japan. Despite a two-run bottom of the seventh rally, the Futures fell 3-2. 

Stacey Nelson (Las Alamitos, Calif.) returned to the World Cup after making two appearances in last year’s World Cup for the women’s national team. She recorded the loss for Futures, allowing three earned runs while Japan’s Makiko Fujiwara earned the win. She tossed four innings allowing four hits. 

“It’s always good to be back in Oklahoma. The fans are the greatest and the atmosphere is always so fun,” Nelson said. “We didn’t come out with a win tonight but there are a lot of games left. This loss put a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot more to prove here. This isn’t the start we wanted but hopefully it will fuel our fire.” 

Japan jumped on board early against the Futures, scoring two runs in the second inning. With one out, back-to-back singles by Yukiyo Mine and Kaoru Oyanagi put two runners on board and a sacrifce bunt advanced runners to second and third. A wild pitch by Nelson allowed Mine to score and give Japan a 1-0 lead. Kasumi Mizoe singled up the middle to plate Oyanagi for a 2-0 cushion. 

Japan scored its third run in the sixth inning when Haruna Sakamoto singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, to third on a ground out, and scored on another Nelson wild pitch. 

The Futures threatened in the sixth when Brittany Lastrapes (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) recorded a walk to start things off. Jamia Reid (Buena Park, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second to put a runner in scoring position. Megan Langenfeld (Bakersfield, Calif.) drew a walk and with one out and two runners on, it looked like the momentum was shifting in the favor of the Futures. A double play ended the inning. 

Futures rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning scoring two runs on two hits. Jenae Leles (Sacramento, Calif.) connected on a single up the middle and advanced to second on a passed ball. Molly Johnson (Tucson, Ariz.) then earned a base on balls before Shawna Wright (Lancaster, Calif.) ripped a two RBI single down the right field line scoring Leles and Johnson. Raven Chavanne (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) then recorded the second out on a ground out bringing Lastrapes to the plate for the Future’s last chance, but a line out to shortstop ended the game with a 3-2 win for Japan. 

“It was a valiant comeback that fell short,” said Futures head coach Kate Drohan (Evanston, Ill.). “We are going to start tomorrow’s game against Canada right where we left off the seventh inning tonight.” 

Finch will pitch in Friday’s 7 p.m. match up with 2005 World Cup Champions Japan, a team that the USA faced in the Gold Medal Game of the World Championship on July 2. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and webcast at http://www.espn3.com. Also Friday, Canada will play USA Futures at 3 p.m. and Canada and Japan will also play at 9, with those games being webcast at http://asa.video4ever.net/index.htm. 

“The coolest thing about playing at the World Cup is that this is our home crowd,” Mendoza said. “This is home, this is USA. We’re here and we have guys chanting USA in the stands and kids screaming it. To be able to kick off the game the way that we did, I think it is just an example of how much we love this game.” 

Tickets for the World Cup are on sale through http://www.softballoutlet.com. Both reserved and general admission tickets will also be available for sale at the stadium ticket booth approximately two hours before the first game of each day. 

- Courtesy USA Softball

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