The USA Softball Women’s and U-19 Women’s National Teams (WNT) bounced back to seal their spot in Championship Sunday at the USA Softball International Cup. The WNT picked up two run-rule victories, a 7-0 (six innings) win over Mexico and a 7-0 (five innings) win over Puerto Rico, to capture the No. 2 overall seed to setup the rematch with Japan for the title. The U-19 WNT earned a 3-0 win over Puerto Rico to earn the No. 3 overall seed and earn the chance to compete in the Bronze Medal Game. This marks the first time the squad will compete for a medal in U-19 WNT program history.
Championship Sunday Schedule
11 a.m. ET – USA U-19 WNT vs Scrap Yard Fast Pitch – Bronze Medal Game
12 p.m. ET – Japan vs USA WNT – Championship Game – ESPN
4 p.m. ET – U-19 WNT vs USSSA Pride – Exhibition*
USA WNT 7, Mexico 0 (six innings)
The USA Softball WNT secured a spot in the Championship Game with a 7-0 (six innings) win over Mexico in their first of two games for the day. Coming up big in the bottom of the second inning with a five-run explosion, a run in the fifth and run in the sixth locked up the run-rule, shutout win.
The U.S. posted a pair of base runners early in their first at-bat of the game after walks to Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) and Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.), but a strikeout ended the first inning. Mexico had an opportunity to score as the bases became loaded with two outs in the top of the second inning, but Garcia fired in a strikeout to get the Red, White and Blue out of the jam.
After struggling to string together the timely hits, the offense exploded for five runs in the bottom of the second inning. Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off by reaching on a bunt single and moved to second on a walk to Dejah Mulipola (Garden Grove, Calif.). With two outs and two on, McCleney hammered a ball over the right field fence to clear the bases and put Team USA up by five. Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) continued the momentum with a single through the right side of the infield and then Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) sent out her fourth home run of the International Cup to make it 5-0, USA.
That score stood until Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) drove in a run in the bottom of the fifth and Garcia walked it off with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The U.S. pitching staff was lights out, combining for nine strikeouts while limiting Mexico to just three hits. Garcia earned the win, tossing four scoreless innings with eight strikeouts while Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) and Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) each pitched scoreless innings. At the plate, McCleney picked up three RBI in a perfect 3-for-3 outing in the box while Arioto collected two RBI.
USA WNT 7, Puerto Rico 0 (five innings)
The USA WNT closed out round-robin action at the USA Softball InternationalCupexactly how it began – with a run-rule victory. Behind a nine-strikeout performance by Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) in the circle, Arioto sent out her fifth home run of thetournament to give Team USA an early edge that they never relinquished.
Right out the gate the U.S. came out swinging as Arioto capitalized on a one-out walk to Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) by sending a long ball out of the park.
Another three runs crossed the plate in the bottom of the fourth to extend the U.S. lead. Capitalizing on a leadoff walk and error, Moultrie drove in a run with a single to right field and McCleney followed with a sac fly to make it 4-0. Merritt drove in the final run of the at-bat on a hard ground ball up the middle to put the U.S. up by five.
Abbott retired the Puerto Rico offense in order in the top of the fifth with three-straight strikeouts to bring Team USA back to the plate needing two runs to end the game via the run-rule. The offense did just that, as Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) led off with a single, moved to second on a walk to Shelby Pendley (Rio Rancho, N.M.) and both advanced on a sac bunt by Spaulding. Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) delivered the final punch, singling to left field to bring the two runners home and end the game with Team USA walking away with the 7-0, shutout win.
Abbott earned the win in the circle, throwing all five innings with nine strikeouts and two hits allowed while Arioto and Munro each drove in a pair of runs.
Heading into the Championship Game against Japan, the U.S. pitching staff has been nothing short of dominant, allowing just five runs over the course of 59 innings in the circle for a staff ERA of 0.60 and 99 strikeouts. At the plate, McCleney leads the offense with a .458 (11-for-24) batting average while Arioto has amassed 10 RBI with five home runs and 11 walks.
U-19 WNT 3, Puerto Rico 0
The U-19 WNT became the first team in program history to earn a spot in a medal-round game of the USA Softball International Cup (formerly World Cup of Softball) with a 3-0, shutout win over Puerto Rico. Playing routine-softball, it was a total team effort as two batters picked up RBIs while Montana Fouts (Grayson, Ky.) shutout one of the top-five ranked teams in the world.
Charla Echols (Newnan, Ga.) got the offense rolling in the top of the first inning with a single and came around to score on Jayda Coleman’s (The Colony, Texas) line drive to left field. Fouts and the U.S. defense quickly recorded two outs in the bottom of the frame until a single by Puerto Rico put one on. A defensive gem got the U.S. out of the inning unscathed as Macy Simmons (Chandler, Ariz.) fired a ball to Jasmine Sievers (Laguna Niguel, Calif.) at shortstop to induce a rundown. A short-to-first-to-second play got the runner out, keeping the one-run lead for the U-19 WNT.
A two-out rally plated another run for the U.S. in the top of the fifth as Kelli Godin (Seal Beach, Calif.) singled and advanced to second on an error by the defense. After Puerto Rico attempted to pick Godin off at second base, a wild throw allowed Godin to scoot around the base paths to make it a 2-0 ballgame.
A double by Taylor Pleasants (Houston, Texas) in the top of the sixth scored the final run of the game as Skylar Wallace (Woodstock, Ga.) had singled in the leadoff spot to put a runner on base. Retiring the side in order through the next two innings, the U-19 WNT earned the win to land themselves in the Bronze Medal Game against Scrap Yard Fast Pitch.
Fouts used her defense, getting 13 groundouts and two fly balls while fanning two batters in a complete-game win. At the plate, Coleman and Pleasants picked up RBI.
Godin has had an outstanding debut at the International Cup, hitting .474 (9-for-19) in the nine-hole while scoring nine times and stealing five bases. From the circle, the U-19 pitching staff has a combined 51 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched, showcasing the depth of the staff against the top-ranked teams in the world.
Tickets for Championship Sunday at the USA Softball International Cup can be purchased outside of South Commons Softball Complex at the ticket booth. For complete coverage of the USA Softball International Cup, including rosters, live stats, streaming and results, visitUSASoftballInternationalCup.com.