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U.S. edges Japan, crushes Dominicans at Softball World Cup; Canada wins

7/19/2007

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tairia Flowers draws a few laughs from her
U.S. teammates at the fact that she's wearing a contact lens in
only one eye. Her production since making the change has been no
joke.

Flowers continued an offensive tear with a tiebreaking two-run
home run in the fourth inning, and the United States beat nemesis
Japan 4-1 Saturday night at the World Cup of Softball.

"I just think it's helping me to sharpen things in. I'm not
seeing extra spin or anything like that, but it's just making me
zone in and see the ball," said Flowers, a first baseman from
UCLA.

Flowers' line drive on the first pitch from Japanese reliever
Mariko Masubuchi (0-1) barely cleared the 4-foot fence in
right-center field to break a 1-1 tie. It was her second home run
of the World Cup, following a grand slam one night earlier.

Flowers, who already was the MVP in the United States' 10-game
sweep of the Canada Cup earlier this year, is 5-for-9 with 10 RBIs
in four World Cup games. She's hitting 18-for-29 with five home
runs and 20 RBIs this year.

"You can tell that she's worked hard, and right now she's
playing the game with confidence," U.S. coach Mike Candrea said.
"I feel like every time she walks up to the plate that she's going
to hit the ball hard, and that's a good feeling."

With a little help from Johnson and Johnson, Flowers made the
change before beginning play at the Canada Cup. She said her left
eye proved to be more dominant.

"They're still a little irritating. I blink a lot on the field.
Some of my teammates have been making fun of me about that, but I'm
always trying to make sure it's still in there," Flowers said.

Lovieanne Jung added an RBI single on a line drive that
ricocheted off Masubuchi's side with the bases loaded in the fifth.
Monica Abbott and Jennie Finch combined on a five-hitter for the
United States (4-0).

Including a 9-0 win against the Dominican Republic earlier
Saturday, the U.S. has won 20 straight games. Five of the victories
in that stretch have come against Japan, the team responsible for
the Americans' last four losses. All four of those games were won
by Japanese ace Yukiko Ueno, who didn't accompany the team to the
World Cup.

Japan (2-1) beat the U.S. for the 2005 World Cup title, then
lost to the Americans in last year's championship game.

Japan mounted a two-out rally in the third against Abbott (1-0)
to tie the game at 1. Masumi Mishina singled to left and advanced
to second on a passed ball. That allowed the inning to extend when
U.S. shortstop Natasha Watley fielded Misato Kawano's grounder and
threw late to third. Kawano took second without a throw, putting
her in scoring position as Emi Naito came to the plate.

Naito lined a single to left to score Mishina, but catcher Jenny
Topping fielded Jessica Mendoza's throw up the third base line and
lunged to tag Kawano out.

Japan coach Haruka Saito said through an interpreter that Kawano
should have held up at third but "there was a lot of pressure on
her" and she had a difficult decision.

Kawano called the choice to try to score was her mistake.

The Americans' first run came in on Crystl Bustos' two-out RBI
double in the first inning.

Earlier in the day, Vicky Galindo hit a three-run home run and
Mendoza drove in three runs to power the U.S. to a 9-0 win against the
Dominican Republic.

During an eight-run second inning, the U.S. had nine consecutive
batters reach on either a hit or a walk -- including a two-run
single by Mendoza and Galindo's first home run of the year to
right-center field.

"I generally go up looking for base hits, hitting the gaps and
hitting through the infield," said Galindo, who's been
concentrating on improving her bunting and slap-hitting this year.
"I think my home run, it was just a perfect pitch and I kind of
just got through it."

Caitlin Lowe had three singles and scored twice, and Alicia
Hollowell (1-0) threw three shutout innings. Finch struck out all
six batters she faced in relief before the game ended after five
innings because of the mercy rule.

Cristina Gwyn threw 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the
Dominican Republic (0-4), which is making its first World Cup
appearance. Luisa Nunez singled with one out in the first for the
team's only hit.

Mendoza also had a sacrifice fly in the first inning to score
Lowe. Mendoza had a 12-game hitting streak snapped in the second
game.

Canada 5, China 1

Danielle Matthews homered and Noemie Marin drove in two runs as
Canada kept its championship game hopes alive.

After being staked to a 3-0 first-inning lead, Danielle Lawrie
(1-0) threw a four-hitter. Alison Bradley, Marin and Erin McLean
each had RBI singles in the rally against China starter Li Qi
(0-1).

China (1-2) scored its only run on Zhou Yi's RBI triple in the
third inning.

Matthews added a leadoff home run in the fifth, and Marin drove
in another run on a groundout for Canada, which would have to beat
the U.S. on Sunday and have Japan lose at least one of its two
remaining games to reach the title game.