U.S. hasn't allowed a run in four wins
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Monica Abbott feels a different vibe on the national team that has put the United States back atop the softball world. She calls it "serious with a smile."
Not many of the Americans' opponents are grinning these days, though.
Jessica Mendoza doubled twice and drove in four runs, Abbott threw a one-hitter and the U.S. beat rival Japan 8-0 Saturday night at the World Cup of Softball.
The Americans (4-0) have yet to allow a run or an extra-base hit in four victories at the World Cup, yielding only nine singles in 26 innings.
"If you don't let them score, it's hard to lose, so that's our plan," U.S. coach Jay Miller said. "We're just going to keep going with that."
Abbott, who threw a two-hitter in the World Cup opener against Canada, allowed only Naoko Matsumoto's leadoff bloop single in the fourth that landed in front of a charging Kaitlin Cochran in right field. That followed a dominant performance by Eileen Canney, who threw a two-hitter in the national team's 1-0 victory against the USA Futures team earlier in the day.
And the scoreless stretch has come without ace Cat Osterman, who tore the biceps in her pitching arm in the Americans' victory in the world championship game against Japan three weeks ago.
"We're trying to be perfect," Abbott said. "We're trying to strive for excellence every time we go out there."
Abbott credited this year's strong performances to the team being a more fun-loving group that can stay loose on the field. The national team had an infusion of youth last year, with 10 rookies replacing the slew of veterans who retired after the Beijing Olympics. The sport won't be played in the Olympics for at least another decade, if ever.
"We're very serious still, don't get me wrong," Abbott said. "But we're serious with a smile. So don't be fooled by our beautiful faces, I guess."
Natasha Watley had an RBI single and scored three times and Cochran homered for the third time in as many days to end the game after six innings because of the mercy rule.
Jennie Finch, playing in her final international tournament, also drove in a run.
The Japanese (2-2) have been the Americans' top rival in recent years, beating the U.S. in the gold-medal game in the 2008 Olympics. But they're dealing with heavy roster turnover, too. Only four players who started in the gold-medal game were on the field for Japan on Saturday night. Most notably missing was Yukiko Ueno, the ace who's given the Americans fits in recent years.
Mendoza, who took last year off while pregnant with her first child, was involved in a collision at home before helping the U.S. pull away.
On Finch's bloop to shallow center that scored Watley, Mendoza slammed into catcher Yukiyo Mine, jarring the helmet off of Mine's head. She was able to hold onto the ball as her head crashed into the ground, and she stayed down for a few moments before being helped to the dugout.
Mine did not return to the game. Mendoza, however, kept doing damage.
Her next time up, she swatted the first pitch from Sayuri Yamane off the fence in right-center for a three-run double to give the Americans a 4-0 lead. After Watley's RBI single in the fourth, Mendoza drove her in with a second straight double -- this time to left.
"You have some nights or days where you're like, `Can I hit really?' You've got to remember nights like tonight just to remember that you can, because this sport will challenge you as quick as it will pick you up," said Mendoza, who also singled and walked and finished 3 for 3.
Canney continued to accumulate fond memories in Oklahoma City, striking out 14 in a two-hitter in the early game a day after she accepted her boyfriend's marriage proposal. Alissa Haber homered for the only offense in the game that featured a squad of the nation's top players against the best players who didn't make the national team.
"It's been a great week, and it's nice because my family is here and friends are here to support us," Canney said. "I just love Oklahoma City. Really great memories here."
Canney (1-0) pitched on the same field for Northwestern at the 2006 Women's College World Series, when the Wildcats made it all the way to the finals before losing to Arizona. She and her fiance, Andrew, started dating shortly before that.
So Friday along the Bricktown canal near downtown, he dropped to one knee and popped the question.
"Oklahoma City is really special for us," Canney said. "So it was a perfect place for it."
Late Saturday, Jennifer Yee led Canada back from a four-run, sixth-inning deficit to beat the Futures team 5-4. Yee had an RBI single in the sixth and a two-run, game-ending double in the seventh. Both teams are now 1-3 but still alive to reach Monday night's championship game.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
MORE OLYMPICS HEADLINES
- Durant, USA pull away from Spain to win gold
- Clippers' Paul has successful surgery on thumb
- Schmitt back to school after Olympic stardom
- Olympian Raisman, Poland Spring sign deal
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
- Nike Women's USA Hockey Navy Tri-Blend V-Neck T-Shirt