By Sports Reporter Sunil Sunder Raj for The Every Day Fan Sports
Mind-boggling stats for the USA Softball Women’s National Team, 13 years and 4,717 days removed from last competing in Olympic action. Making their fifth appearance in the Olympics, Team USA entered ranked number one in the world.
They were looking to recapture the Gold Medal after falling to Japan in the 2008 Olympic Games. Despite the loss, the U.S. Olympic Team had won gold medals in three consecutive Olympic games in 1996, 2000, and 2004 while holding an overall record of 32-5.
Facing off against No. 3 Italy in the opening round of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Fukushima Azuma Stadium with a start time of 11 p.m. in the USA and 12 p.m. in Japan.
Team USA starting pitcher Cat Osterman got off to a strong start, fanning two of three hitters in the top 1st. Team USA had a scoring opportunity with runners on first and second two outs in the bottom half of the frame, but Italy starting pitcher Greta Cecchetti managed to wiggle out of the jam.
Cecchetti stymied Team USA for the first three innings, not allowing a single hit. However, Osterman matched that intensity by retiring eight in a row. Team USA finally breaking through in the fourth inning as first baseman Valerie Arioto reached on an infield single.
Second baseman Ali Aguilar dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt that moved Arioto over to the second base. Right-fielder Michelle Moultrie broke the scoreless tie by ripping an RBI single to right field.
In the fifth inning, catcher Aubree Munro led off by reaching on an error. Centerfielder Haylie McCleney followed by lacing a single to left field. With runners on the corner, Janie Reed lifted a fly ball to deep centerfield. Munro tagged up and strode across home plate to make it a 2-0 game.
Appearing as Team USA might break the contest wide open with runners on first and second and one out, and then with the bases loaded, Italy went to its bullpen. Calling upon Alexia Lacatena, who managed to retired the last hitters.
Meanwhile, Osterman kept dialing up the heat, whiffing the first two batters in the sixth inning, increasing her strikeout total to nine. Head Coach Ken Eriksen called on Monica Abbott to finish out the seventh. Abbott did not disappoint by striking out the side to preserve the 2-0 shutout win.
Team USA returns to action on Wednesday, July 21st, against third seed Canada with the first pitch set for 8 p.m. USA time and 9 a.m. Japan time.