MATSUYAMA, Japan—Marti Sementelli pitched six shutout innings and struck out four to lead Team USA to its third medal in as many World Cups. The US women defeated Australia, 2-1, for the Bronze Medal.
After giving up a single to Australia’s shortstop Shae Lillywhite in the first inning, Sementelli, a 15-year-old Burbank, California, resident, did not allow other hits until the fourth, when first base player Katie Gaynor and left fielder Samantha Hamilton hit singles, and the seventh, when a single by pinch hitter Laura Neads drove in Australia’s only run. Sementelli improved to 2-0 in tournament play, both victories against the Australian team.
Shortstop Sarah Gascon of Los Angeles, Calif., led Team USA’s offense, going 3 for 3. Tournament RBI leader and second base player Malaika Underwood of Atlanta, Ga., drove in her twelfth run in the fifth inning, plating Tara Harbert of Longmont, Colo., on a fielder’s choice. Harbert scored both Team USA runs, hit 1 for 4, and stole her third base in tournament play.
“I was proud of the way our players finished the tournament today,” Manager Brian Bright told USABaseball.com. “The loss last night [against Japan] was extremely hard on everyone, but today we regrouped and finished strong. We found our focus today and played an excellent all-round game.”
Australia threatened in the fifth inning when centerfielder Amy McCann reached second on a two-base throwing error by third base player Donna Mills (Lynn, Mass.). Australian second base player Loren Vella reached on a bunt and an error, then ran to second while McCann attempted a suicide squeeze. USA catcher Veronica Alvarez of Miami, Florida, after receiving a high throw from Sementelli, ran McCann down in the basepath and tagged her for the first out. Australian catcher Kelly Manzie and Lillywhite grounded out to end the frame.
Still, the Australia women did not give up and tried again in the bottom of the seventh. The first two batters, Hamiton (who was replaced by pinch runner Julia Fellows) and designated hitter Renee Straumietis, were hit by pitches. McCann executed a sacrifice bunt to put the runners on second and third, and Neads singled to plate Fellows. Then, pinch hitter Kim McMillan popped to Alvarez, who saw another attempt at a squeeze play, gunned the ball to Mills at third to double off Straumietis, and ended the game.Team USA’s Tournament Leaders
Alvarez’s batting average, .750 (9 for 12), place her first on the team and among the tournament leaders. After being retired in her first at-bat against Chinese Taipei, Alvarez reached safely in 12 straight plate appearances and drove in four runs. Underwood led the team and tournament with 12 RBI and the team with 10 hits, batting .417 in six games with a double, two triples, and a homerun. Keri Lemasters of Beverly, Mass., and Bridget Veenema of Deerfield, Ill., tied for first among tournament leaders with four doubles apiece and hitting .429 and .385 respectively. Team USA posted a .426 batting average in this tournament, while holding their opponents to .270 overall.
Sementelli topped the team in pitching with two wins, striking out five in 12 innings and allowing two runs on eight hits for a 1.50 ERA. Kristin Mills Caldwell of Bear, Del., was second with 10.2 innings pitched, yielding six earned runs on 19 hits while striking out four. Anna Kimbrell of Fort Mill, S.C., registered the team’s lone save and held a 2.84 ERA.
I will put together a story on a new blog about the Gold Medal Game between Japan and Canada as soon as I can get the accumulated statistics.