U.S. women's softball team to make tour stop in Akron


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The U.S. Olympic softball team will swing through Akron, Ohio, this summer on its way to China.

The three-time defending gold medal champions will play at Firestone Stadium on July 22, one of the final stops on its 62-game "Bound 4 Beijing" tour that will conclude July 26 in Irvine, Calif.

The game was originally scheduled to be played in Xenia, Ohio, but had to be switched to Akron because of a construction delay at the facility where they were going to play.

Firestone will be a familiar venue for several Olympians. Slugger Crystl Bustos, outfielder Kelly Kretschman and utility player Jenny Topping played there for the Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch League.

The U.S. team is also scheduled to play in Ashland, Ohio, on June 23.

After two days of rainouts, the U.S. team improved to 11-0 on Saturday night by beating South Florida 18-0 and shutting out North Carolina State 13-0. Bustos hit a grand slam in the opener and added a three-run, 300-foot homer in the second game.

The U.S. team has outscored the opposition 118-0 so far on the tour. The Americans will take a short break before resuming on March 19 in Fullerton, Calif. Coach Mike Candrea is expected to announce his final 15-player roster for Beijing on March 28.

The current 18-player roster includes 12 members of the 2004 Olympic team, which outscored the competition 51-1 while winning its third gold medal. The Beijing games will be the last ones until at least 2016 for softball, which was voted out of the 2012 London Games by the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC will vote in October 2009 whether to bring softball back to the Olympic program.

The softball competition in Beijing begins on Aug. 12.