Pitcher Jaclyn Traina delivers a pitch for Team USA during World Cup of Softball XI in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Torrey Purvey)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a two year absence the World Cup of Softball made its return to Oklahoma City this summer. But just like in most years, the two best softball programs in the world, met up again in the finale to battle over the crown.
Facing Japan, it was all set up for Team USA in the Gold Medal game to close out the week as heroes.
Instead it was Japan who found a way to close the door on a potent USA lineup and earn a 2-1 victory July 10 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
“Tonight against a good team like Japan, we gave them some free bases and really didn’t have the type of hitting that we needed,” said catcher Aubree Munro.
With the victory Japan claimed the World Cup of Softball XI gold medal, while the Americans were left with the silver. It was their only loss of the week.
“I was very proud of the fact that we had young kids step up this week, we didn’t panic and sometimes the difference between a Gold and Silver is a fingernail,” USA coach Ken Eriksen said. “I think when you take a look up and down our lineup, everybody can hit it well. We’ve got rookie pitchers out here that are moving in the right direction. I can’t wait for us to get to the Worlds (Championships) and get started.”
Team USA faced Japan last year In the World Cup and came away with an easy 6-1 win. Japan turned the tables this time around.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Team USA loaded the bases with only one out on the board. A single hit could either tie the contest or also plate the go ahead run.
But Team USA was unable to connect and Japan got the final two outs to close out the night.
Japan went undefeated at 7-0 while Team USA finished the World Cup of Softball with a 6-1 record.
“I think this week was good for us in really coming together,” Munro said. “Ti felt like this tournament really gave us an opportunity to play as a team consistently. It wasn’t just a few games here or there like we had been doing over the last month. It was really good for us to be in the same area for an extended period of time. Also, every time you play Japan, you get more information. You are more prepared for the next time you play Japan. They are a really good team. They prepare very well. So this is going to help us.”
Japan has defeated Team USA in 3 of the 4 meetings this summer.
USA Elite, the national team’s developmental squad, lost a heart breaker to Japan July 9 to close out pool play. That placed them in the Bronze medal game against Australia.
One again, the Elite saw their contest come down to the final innings, before they fell 4-3.
“The team hit the ball well, it just comes down to whoever plays the best at the end,” Elite coach Tairia Flowers. “This team can swing the bat, and now they’ve gotten the chance to see how international softball is. We have some really talented girls. They’re young, they’re excited and they want to get better.”
Because of the success of both USA teams at the World Cup, Eriksen is excited for what the future offers the rest of the year at the WBSC World Championships (July 15-24) and the Japan Cup (Aug. 24-Sept. 5).
“You take a look at what we did, and what the USA Elite did,” Eriksen said, “and you can see the future is bright for USA Softball.”