U.S. gets win in first Cup defense

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With Crystl Bustos and Kelly Kretschman leading a lineup of American sluggers, Jennie Ritter's jitters quickly faded away in her first appearance at the World Cup of Softball.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- With Crystl Bustos and Kelly Kretschman leading a lineup of American sluggers, Jennie Ritter's jitters quickly faded away in her first appearance at the World Cup of Softball.

After a rocky beginning from Ritter, Bustos and Kretschman each hit two-run home runs as the United States opened its World Cup title defense with a 9-1 win against Venezuela on Thursday night.

"Every hit everybody hits is just amazing. To have that amount of run production for a pitcher and for our defense has been awesome," said Ritter, who led Michigan to its first Women's College World Series title in 2005. "It definitely puts you at ease a little bit more once you get some runs on the board."

Ritter, who made the U.S. national team out of training camp for the first time this year, 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 had a first-inning home run off Jennie Finch in a 13-1 loss to the United States six days earlier at the Canada Cup.


"I think it was jitters. I hung a curve ball. I was ahead on her and I think I was trying to be too perfect," Ritter said. "I missed the movement, and that's what happens."

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 then 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.

Natasha Watley had her second triple of the game to lead off the fourth, and she scored on Vicky Galindo's sacrifice fly. Kretschman's two-out opposite-field shot to left field 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.

"I think the team did what we needed to do today offensively. Obviously, one thing you'll remember is Bustos' home run, but this is a good offensive team and I think we have really good balance throughout our lineup," U.S. coach Mike Candrea said. "I feel like any time, any inning that we can generate runs. From a coach's standpoint, I'm fairly pleased right now."

Ritter settled in after the first. She retired eight batters in a row -- striking out five of them -- before Alicart reached on a bunt single to start the fourth.

Ritter gave up three hits in four innings before Alicia Hollowell closed out the game with a scoreless fifth inning.


"Ritter's awesome. We faced her at camp, and I was telling coach, 'Her ball is breaking.' Ritter can make that ball do some things that I don't think some of the other pitchers can make happen," Bustos said.

"I've seen a lot of things. Each one of our pitchers brings something different to the table. With her, she steps up there, she doesn't take anything, she comes at you hard and she stays hard the whole 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.

Japan 8, Dominican Republic 0, five innings

Megu Hirose hit a three-run home run as Japan jumped out to an early lead against the Dominican Republic in its first-ever World Cup game.

Hirose's blast to left field capped a five-run first inning for the Japanese, who won the 2005 World Cup and finished second a year ago.

Masumi Mishini added a run-scoring infield single in the third and Emi Inui had a two-run double in the fourth as the Japanese won with the run rule.


Mika Someya gave up three hits -- all singles -- and struck out six in five shutout innings.

Cristina Gwyn went the distance for the Dominicans, giving up all eight runs on 11 hits and four walks.

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