Lauren Gibson powers U.S. to win
OKLAHOMA CITY -- U.S. softball coach Ken Eriksen has watched Lauren Gibson play for his team for three years and said he's become a bit spoiled by her.
In the World Cup of Softball opener on Thursday night, Gibson turned in one of those performances that Eriksen has come to love, going 2 for 3 with a home run, two RBIs, two stolen bases and three runs scored as the U.S. routed Canada 7-0 in six innings.
Sara Nevins and Jessica Moore combined on a two-hitter for the U.S., which has won the last six World Cups and is 40-4 all-time in the event, one of the major tournaments on the international softball circuit.
"It's good to be positive about what went on tonight," Eriksen said. "We've got to build upon it. We went out and I thought we executed well when we had to. I thought some really, really good at-bats. . They are so talented right now. They've just need to trust themselves and we'll be in good shape."
Gibson, the Southeastern Conference player of the year at Tennessee this spring, did a little bit of everything for the U.S., which jumped ahead quickly with four runs in the first two innings and never gave Canada a chance to gain any momentum.
"We see it every single day, so we don't get excited," Eriksen said. "In practice she's like that, so we get spoiled, so we have to learn to appreciate it a little bit more and make sure she realizes we appreciate it. But that's typical Gibson in this program. She gets pretty jacked up when she puts the red, white and blue on."
Gibson singled with one out in the first inning, and she and Michelle Moultrie scored on a bases-loaded single by Valerie Arioto off Canada starter Jenna Caira (0-1). Gibson and her Tennessee teammate, Raven Chavanne, successfully executed a double steal in the second, with Gibson scoring to put the U.S. ahead 4-0.
Gibson said the double steal wasn't planned, which Eriksen confirmed.
"We have a system that's kind of an evolving system," Eriksen said. "We take advantage of the situation at the time. All I said to her was, `As soon as you see the ball out of the fingertips, you're gone.' We had a steal on. I just told (Gibson) to read it and that's what she did."
Nevins (1-0) and Moore shut down Canada's lineup. Nevins, a standout for Eriksen at South Florida, struck out six in five innings and surrendered only an infield single to Victoria Hayward and a single up the middle to Joey Lye, both with one out in the third inning.
Nevins settled down to retire Caitlin Lever on a sacrifice bunt and Megan Timpf on a bouncer back to the pitcher, ending the threat.
"There was no pressure or anything," Nevins said. "It's good to have both your defense and your offense help you out. I just treated it like another softball game in college."
Chavanne had an RBI single before Gibson smashed her two-run homer over the left-center field fence in the top of the sixth. Moore, who plays collegiately at Oregon, retired the Canadians in order in the bottom of the sixth, ending the game by the run rule.
"I think everyone knew what their role was and I think that's why we were so successful today," Gibson said. "It was nice to get off to a quick start like that, because it helps our pitching so much. It allows them to pitch their game."
In the only other World Cup game played Thursday, Japan beat Australia 3-2. Puerto Rico also is in the five-team field.
The U.S. will play Australia on Friday.