USA picks up two more mercy rule victories on ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour
Columbus, GA---The USA Softball Women’s National Team opened the NFCA Classic with two mercy rule victories to improve to 7-0 on the ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour. The U.S. defeated No. 12 Michigan 9-0 in five innings and Virginia Tech 12-0 in five innings.
Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, CA) smashed her first home run of the tour in the bottom of the second inning to put the U.S. on the board with a 2-0 lead. Lovie Jung (Fountain Valley, CA) reached on a one out single and scored on the Mendoza home run. Kelly Kretschman (Indiana Harbour Beach, FL) then walked, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. A double by two time-Olympic gold medalist Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, CA) plated Kretschman for the final run of the inning.
The U.S. delivered three more home runs in the third and fourth inning to push its lead to 9-0. Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, CA) led off the bottom of the third with a homer to left field and Mendoza led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot.
Kretschman walked for the second time in the game and moved to second on a sac bunt by Berg. Natasha Watley (Irvine, CA) then had an RBI double down the right field line to score Kretschman. After a pitching change and a walk to Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, CA), Bustos launched her second home run of the game and fifth of the tour to give the U.S. a 9-0 cushion.
Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, CA) improved to 2-0 on the 2004 ‘Aiming for Athens’ tour after allowing only an infield single in the first inning and struckout 10 of the 15 batters she faced. Cat Osterman (Houston, TX) pitched the final inning and allowed just one hit while striking out two.
Bustos and Mendoza each hit two home runs in the game. Bustos collected four RBI and Mendoza picked up three respectively. Despite frigid conditions during the nightcap the U.S. bats remained hot as the Red, White and Blue downed Virginia Tech 12-0 for its sixth mercy rule victory of the tour. Bustos provided the highlight of the night crushing a 1-1 pitch 315 feet for her third home run of the night and her sixth RBI.
“I was just glad she didn’t beam one back at my face,” said Virginia Tech pitcher Katie Maynard. “You can’t do anything but laugh. They’re the best in the world. It’s Crystal Bustos – she’s amazing.”
In the first, Watley walked and scored on an RBI double by O’Brien-Amico. A single by Fernandez scored Amico for the only other run of the inning.
The U.S. sealed the deal in the eighth inning exploding for eight runs on five hits. A two RBI double by Fernandez and a single that plated two by Berg highlighted the inning for the U.S. Fernandez and Mendoza each had two hits in the game while Fernandez posted a game high three RBI.
Jennie Finch (La Mirada, CA) and Lori Harrigan (Las Vegas, NV) combined to pitch a five inning no-hitter. Finch struck out 10 in four innings of work and walked only one. This marks the second combined no-hitter for Finch on the tour and she has now pitched 12.1 innings allowing only a bunt single and has struck out a team high 30, while walking only one.
“It shows us where we are and that we can hang with them for a while,” Maynard said. “It’s also like the coolest thing ever. It’s really neat to get the opportunity to play them.”
Bustos continues to abuse opposing hitting going 14-for-21 (.667) with two doubles, a triple, six home runs and 17 RBI. After seven games she is carrying an amazing 1.714 slugging percentage.
The U.S. continues exhibition play on Saturday at the NFCA Classic when the face Army at 6:30 p.m. and No. 21 Arizona State at 8:30 p.m.