World Cup Softball Begins In Oklahoma

Thursday, July 12th 2007, 7:28 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Crystl Bustos and Kelly Kretschman hit two-run homers, and the United States opened its title defense at the World Cup of Softball with a 9-1 win against Venezuela on Thursday night.

Kretschman's two-out opposite-field shot to left in the fourth inning pushed the U.S beyond the seven-run cushion it needed to end the game after five innings.

It was the 17th straight win for the U.S., which played its first game of the year on American soil.

Jennie Ritter, making her first start against an opposing country's national team, gave up a home run to the first batter she faced. Maria Soto lined a 1-2 pitch over the left field fence to give Venezuela a 1-0 lead in its second straight game against the Americans.

Yurubi Alicart hit a first-inning home run off Jennie Finch in a 13-1 loss to the United States six days earlier at the Canada Cup.

Jessica Mendoza started a two-out rally for the U.S. in the bottom of the inning by blooping a double into shallow left field. Bustos was walked intentionally and Kretschman drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases for Tairia Flowers, who grounded a two-run single up the middle that was just out of the reach of diving second baseman Alicart.

The Americans tacked on four more runs in the second, capped by Bustos' two-run shot to left field that short-hopped a second fence that stands 300 feet from home plate.

Lauren Lappin started the inning with a bunt single, went to second on pitcher Mariangee Bogado's throwing error and advanced to third on a balk before scoring on Laura Berg's sacrifice fly. Natasha Watley followed with a triple before she scored on another balk by Bogado.

Watley also had a leadoff triple and scored on Vicky Galindo's sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Ritter, who led Michigan to its first Women's College World Series title in 2005, settled in after the first. She retired eight batters in a row _ striking out five _ before Alicart reached on a bunt single to start the fourth. She has yet to give up a run in 7 1-3 innings since being selected to the national team for the first time this year.

Ritter gave up three hits in four innings before Alicia Hollowell pitched a scoreless fifth inning to finish the game.

After losing twice in the 2005 World Cup, including the title game against Japan, the U.S. outscored opponents 59-3 to win last year's event.

The Americans have won all three Olympic gold medals in softball and the last six world championships.