The ninth edition of the World Cup of Softball is complete, with the United States reclaiming its throne after overcoming a field of eight elite teams.
Although every team had a fighting chance from the start, historically the event had been a battle between the United States and Japan. The Americans have now taken it seven times, while the Japanese won the other two.
After Japan's shocking upset of Team USA in 2013, though, the United States entered the fray with revenge on the mind and proceeded to win each game, including the gold-medal tile with Canada.
Let's break down the latest results from the World Cup of Softball.
|2014 World Cup of Softball Standings|
Note: Full tournament schedule and live stream found on USA Softball's website.
Venezuela 7, Philippines 4
With a spot in a late game against No. 5 Mexico on the line, Venezuela went out Sunday afternoon and was the model of efficiency in their triumph over the Philippines.
Venezuela was led by Mariangee Bogado in the circle, who went a full six innings and struck out seven while allowing the four runs the Philippine side would plate on the day.
A sound performance in order to give her team plenty of rest before a second game later in the night, Bogado was still overshadowed by the work her team put in at the plate—recording seven runs on as many hits.
Venezuela's Ana Coscorrosa led all batters in the contest with three RBI, while her teammate Jineth Pimentel was close behind with two. After the first frame the lead was already 2-1, a differential that would blossom to a 7-1 advantage thanks to a five-run third frame.
The Phillippines, led by Lorna Adorable and her four quality at bats, which proved the high mark of the contest, would add three total runs in the fourth and fifth frames, but to no avail as the decisive fifth inning proved costly.
USA 5, Canada 2
It was only right that the USA side and Canada would dance again, but with everything on the line in the gold-medal final, the stakes were very high on Sunday.
Sunday was a showcase of strong pitching, with Sara Nevins leading the way for USA in the circle with 6.1 innings pitched and eight strikeouts. Her team got on the board first in the third inning on a run from Kelsey Stewart, and it proved a lead the team would never relinquish.
As a testament to Nevins' elite play, she faced loaded bags in the fourth inning, but tallied some critical strikeouts to keep Canada scoreless, as ASA and USA Softball illustrates:
USA exploded for three runs in the top of the fifth frame, highlighted by an RBI double from Michelle Moultrie, who would later be driven across home plate by Raven Chavanne.
Canada would respond with two runs in the sixth inning thanks to a hit batter with the bases loaded and a single, but Chavanne provided an insurance run for her team in the final frame with her second RBI single of the contest.
For the United States, it's a triumph that gets them back on top of the world after a disappointing outing a year ago. Canada can relish and build off the strong appearance for future years after few gave them good odds of reaching the final.
Chinese Taipei 4, Japan 3
Chinese Taipei did well to rebound from their 14-run loss to the United States, utilizing a four-run fourth inning to eke out a 4-3 comeback victory over the once-mighty team from Japan.
Japan benefited from another spate of sloppy play by Chinese Taipei to put up three runs over the first two innings.
Misa Okubo and Rei Nishiyama came around to score for Japan on a first-inning error by pitcher An Jiu Chiu. They notched another run on an error by Szu Li in the third inning to take an early 3-0 lead.
Chinese Taipei finally got the big play it needed in the fourth inning. Hsiang Yun Wang laced a three-run double off Japan pitcher Sayuri Yamane to tie the ballgame at 3-3. Yu Han Liu singled to follow Wang, eventually scoring on an error from Japan third baseman Haruna Sakamoto (Wang was called out earlier on a fielder's choice).
Hui Lin Chung was able to close out the victory for Chinese Taipei, allowing just one hit over two solid innings of work.
Eric-Paul Johnson of The Press-Enterprise noted that these two teams hadn't seen the last of each other in this tournament:
Japan just couldn't conjure up the excellent brand of play that defined their first-place victory in the . No matter the outcome, Sunday's matchup against Chinese Taipei will be Japan's worst finish in this tournament.
USA 14, Chinese Taipei 0
Chinese Taipei lay a beating on the Philippines on Friday, but it was there turn to take a shellacking as the United States ran them off the diamond with a resounding 14-0 victory that the officials called after just four innings of play.
Team USA had already booked a spot in the World Cup of Softball championship with their dominant displays over the course of the tournament, but they didn't take anything lightly in this contest.
The offense was very well spread out, as no USA player finished with more than 2 RBI on the day.
Amanda Chidester got the Stars and Stripes on the board early with a first-inning, two-run double. Valerie Arioto and Chidester would later come around to score on an error to make the score 4-0 after just a half-inning of work.
The same pattern of timely hitting and costly errors characterized the remainder of the game, as the United States put up five runs in the second, one in the third, and four in the fourth inning to close out the contest.
Chinese Taipei pitchers Ying Hsin Lin and Hui Lin Chung took the brunt of the damage for their squad, giving up five and eight runs, respectively.
Chung was especially unlucky, as just three of the eight runs she gave up were earned. Chinese Taipei committed three errors in just four innings of play, gifting the United States extra throughout the game.
Jessica Plaza was a monster at the bottom of the lineup for Team USA, going 3-for-3 with an RBI. Eric-Paul Johnson of The Press-Enterprise caught Plaza in action:
Team USA spread the love on the mound as pitchers Jessica Moore, Jaclyn Traina and Arioto combined to spread just two hits over four innings while striking out a total of seven batters.
Team USA can look at this game as a major confidence boost heading into the final against Canada. Chinese-Taipei will have to regroups as they are set to play one more game on Saturday when they take on the mighty squad from Japan.
Canada 8, Mexico 2
Mexico lost in heartbreaking fashion to the United States early in the day. Later in the evening against Canada, they were simply blown out.
The Canadians clinched their spot in the championship alongside the Americans after scoring five runs in the fifth inning and bulldozing the Mexicans, 8-2. Joey Lye (two hits, a walk, three runs scored) and Carey-Leigh Thomas (three RBI) led the way for the Canadians, while Sara Groenewegen and Brooke Seneshen combined to allow just two runs on five hits and one walk, striking out eight.
The Canadians really opened things up in the fifth inning. Already leading 2-0, Lye singled and made her way to second on a sacrifice bunt. Jennifer Yee was then intentionally walked before Thomas stepped up to the plate and promptly crushed a three-run dinger.
They weren't done there, adding two more runs in the inning and ending any hopes the Mexicans had of mounting a comeback. Jessica Traxler would manage to score in the bottom of the fifth and smack a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, but that was the extent of the Mexican resistance.
With that performance, Canada will head into the final against the United States with plenty of confidence, despite losing to them earlier in the tournament, 5-3. Gator Softball has the details of the championship matchup:
It should be a doozy.
USA 3, Mexico 2
The United States had things all wrapped up against Mexico. And then they didn't. And then, well, they did again.
In a crazy seventh inning that saw Mexico's Melissa Taukeiaho and Adriana Perez erase a two-run deficit with back-to-back home runs, Haylie McCleney responded in kind, leading off the bottom of the inning with a triple and scoring on Michelle Moultrie's sacrifice fly to give the Americans a 3-2 win.
That salvaged a brilliant performance from starter Jolene Henderson, who pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and no walks while striking out six. Mexico's starter Estela Pinon wasn't so lucky, going the distance but giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out seven.
The United States opened the scoring in the bottom of the third, as Raven Chavanne ripped a solo home run. That was all the game had to offer in terms of offense until the bottom of the fifth, when McCleney doubled to start the inning, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and eventually scored on a Chavanne single.
Still, this wasn't the dominant performance we've come to expect from the United States, and the team's manager noticed, via Eric-Paul Johnson of The Press-Enterprise:
The United States remain undefeated at this year's tournament and can head into the championship game without a loss if they get past Chinese Taipei. For a country that has won six of the last eight World Cups, anything less than a title this year would be considered a failure.
Thus far, the American ladies have looked up to the task, even if Mexico gave them quite a scare late.
USA 8, Japan 1
Team USA has been dominant throughout the World Cup of Softball thus far, looking hungry to make sure that they get their title back from Japan after losing it in 2013.
They took that chip on their shoulder and brought it into Friday's game, taking it to the Japanese in an 8-1 victory.
It was a tight game throughout, with the Americans not taking the lead until they entered the top of the fifth as ASA and USA Softball illustrated:
Things were tight early on with the two sides tied at 1-1. But after figuring out how to keep the Japanese under wraps heading into the latter stages of the game, the USA bats exploded.
Even though they held a one-run lead going in, the USA blew things open in the fifth. They racked up six runs in the inning and ended things on a run rule.
It was a home run that ended the game for the USA, per ASA and USA Softball:
Friday's walk-off was special in that it came against the team that shocked them in last year's final, and perhaps their biggest competition this year as well. Japan and the USA are the only two teams that have ever won a World Cup of Softball.
Surely, this will be just the first of numerous games between these two sides as they are certain to make deep runs. But early on, it's looking like Team USA has the edge.
Chinese Taipei 16, Philippines 1
Spurred by a massive 13-run second inning, the Chinese Taipei easily got past the Philippines after just four innings of play, 16-1.
Despite the lopsided final score, the Philippines were the first to lead Friday's game. But one run in the first inning was all that they would muster.
After keeping the Chinese Taipei bats quiet through one inning, they blew the game open in the second with a whopping 13 runs.
They added one more in the third and two in the fourth inning. After the Philippines failed to score for three straight innings, the mercy rule ended the game.
Matches at the World Cup of Softball have been noticeably close from top to bottom, but Friday's game between Chinese Taipei and the Philippines was a big-time exception. After one inning that spiraled out of control, the deficit was just too much.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, they were on the receiving end of the only other game this tournament to end with a more than 10-run differential. They were beaten 13-1 by Team USA early in the tournament, and also lost by nine runs to Japan earlier on Friday.
Mexico 1, Venezuela 0
Bats for many of the teams playing Friday were hot, but not those of Mexico or Venezuela. A pitcher's duel resulted in a tight 1-0 Mexican victory.
ASA and USA Softball capped the result:
Estela Pinon was the star on the mound for Mexico. No. 24 for the Mexicans pitched a complete game of seven innings, striking out four and giving up all of two hits.
She was matched with a masterful performance from Venezuela pitcher Mariangee Bogado. The two pitchers for each side were unhittable throughout.
Until the sixth inning, that is. It took just one hit for Mexico to get on the board and take the 1-0 lead that would see them through to the win. Brandi Melero cranked one off Bogado for the only pitch she wishes she had back all night.
ASA and USA Softball summed it up:
Few starting pitchers from Friday ended feeling good about their performances, but Pinon and Bogado should be two who do. Both dominated the mound, but unfortunately, only one can walk away with the win.
The win was crucial for Mexico, as it propelled them to 2-2 on the tournament to keep pace with the top teams so far. On the other end, Venezuela moves further toward its inevitable elimination with a 1-5 tourney record.
USA 5, Canada 3
The United States jumped on Canada early in Thursday's game and didn't look back, withstanding a late Canadian surge to take a 5-3 decision over their border rivals.
Thursday saw a defensive struggle between the two sides, but only briefly. In the early innings, the Americans made a quick surge to go in front.
Lauren Gibson started it off with a RBI triple that brought home the game's first run. A few batters later, Valerie Arioto bombed a two-run home run to put Team USA up 3-0.
ASA and USA Softball capped up the moment:
Team USA gained the momentum early on by going in front, but weren't done there. Raven Chavanne soon added another RBI, hitting home Haylie McCleney to put America in front 4-0.
Heading into the final two innings of the game, it looked like the USA were about to cruise to their third win of the tournament and knock off the only other unbeaten team left. But Canada opted to go down swinging.
The Canadians made a serious late push that nearly resulted in them gaining the lead. After bringing around three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the USA lead was cut to 4-3 entering a tight final few frames.
Instead of wilting, the Americans responded valiantly with an insurance run in the top of the seventh for a crucial two-run cushion. Then, they firmly shut the door in the bottom of the seventh to win it.
The victory was crucial for Team USA. Canada joined them as the only unbeaten foes in the World Cup of Softball entering the game, a title which now belongs solely to the Americans.
Team USA is in action again Friday in another enticing matchup that pegs them against Japan. The Americans lost to the Japanese in last year's championship, but could give the reigning champs their second loss of the tournament.
Chinese Taipei 3, Mexico 2
Mexico jumped out in front early in the game, scoring two runs in the first inning thanks to a pair of singles from Tatiana Alcala and Marrisaa Bravo. With two runners on base, Adriana Perez capitalized with a RBI single.
ASA and USA Softball recorded the early action on Twitter:
Things didn't look good on the mound for Chinese Taipei early, as starter Ying Hsin Lin allowed those early runs, but she stabilized and went four more innings without allowing another run.
That's when Chinese Taipei's offense took over.
In the second inning, the team got on the board with a solo home run by Szu Shih Li, shortening Mexico's lead to just one run.
Chinese Taipei continued to chip away in the fourth inning, as Li struck again. This time, she singled to center, scoring Hsiang Yun Wang.
With the score remaining tied in the sixth inning, Hui Wen Huang scored Pei Chun Lin on a sacrifice groundout, giving Chinese Taipei a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.
After two stellar relief innings on the mound from Hui Lin Chung, the defensive struggle came to an end. ASA and USA Softball tweeted the final score and information for the next game:
Neither team will have much of a chance to rest after Thursday's game. Chinese Taipei will look to continue its winning ways on Friday against the Philippines, while Mexico will look to right the ship against Venezuela.
Venezuela 6, Chinese Taipei 3
After being shut out in the opener earlier Monday against the Philippines, Venezuela faced a 2-1 deficit after five innings and looked to be on the verge of two crushing opening-day defeats.
The Venezuelan bats just weren't ready to go out like that. A five-run sixth inning propelled Venezuela to a 6-3 victory over Chinese Taipei.
ASA and USA Softball capped up the win:
Maria Gomez pitched four strong innings for Venezuela, but it wasn't enough for much of the contest. A two-run third inning for Chinese Taipei put it in front heading into the game's latter stages.
Heading into the bottom of the sixth, though, the entire game changed with a couple of swings. All of a sudden, Yuruby Alicart smashed a two-run homer to give the Venezuelans a 4-2 lead.
By the end of the sixth, Venezuela had pushed its lead to 6-2. One last-gasp effort for Chinese Taipei only resulted in one run before the victor firmly shut the door.
It was a great display of resiliency from Venezuela, simply refusing to fall to 0-2 in the tournament. That would have been an insurmountable deficit this early and put it in a bad hole.
Although it faced plenty of ups and downs on Monday in its own right, Venezuela is just getting started. It faces off with Japan—the defending World Cup of Softball champion—in Tuesday's early game.
On the other side of things, Chinese Taipei will look to rebound against Canada on Day 2.
Philippines 3, Venezuela 0
Philippines pitcher Francesca Foti tossed seven scoreless innings, and her teammates' bats led the way early for a comfortable 3-0 victory over Venezuela.
In the opener to the 2014 event, Foti stole the show. She pitched the entire game, only allowing five Venezuelan hits while striking out one.
Garie Blando and Francesca Altomonte knocked in runs in the first and second innings to allow for the Philippines to jump out in front.
ASA and USA Softball recapped the Philippines' early offensive success:
Dani Gilmore was next to add to the Philippines' growing lead, notching the team's third and final RBI in the fifth inning.
Not only were the runs spread out, but the Philippines hitters also spread the wealth in hits, as The Press-Enterprise's Eric-Paul Johnson noted:
Three runs could have been made up in no time by Venezuela, but Foti made sure that didn't happen. With her command and consistency getting on top of batters in the pitch count, Venezuela could never muster consecutive hits to put any real pressure on.
On the other end, the Philippines' bats awoke early and didn't stop throughout, amassing 10 hits in total.
The victors posed for the camera afterward, per ASA and USA Softball:
The losers won't get much time to rest before playing next. Venezuela faces Chinese Taipei in Monday's second match and could very well find itself behind by two games before many of the national squads play their first game.
Meanwhile, the Philippines can ring in its victory and begin preparations for a clash with Mexico on Tuesday.
Canada 11, Japan 4
Canada only needed five innings Monday to dispatch Japan to the tune of 11-4.
It looked like the game was over in the second inning when Canada poured four runs on the board early. Erika Polidori drilled a three-run home run to open up the game, and Kaleigh Rafter tacked on a home run of her own during the inning.
Japan responded with two runs in the third, and things got a bit crazy in the fourth inning, as ASA and USA Softball pointed out:
Canada responded nicely, though, when it put four runs of its own on the board in the fourth inning after Japan tied the game. Canada received timely hitting from Rafter, Megan Gurski and Jennifer Yee during the rally.
Sara Groenewegen tallied the win on the mound for Canada by allowing two runs over 1.2 innings. She actually allowed three hits and didn't notch a strikeout, but she did enough to get the win in the box score.
Canada will take on Chinese Taipei, which lost to Venezuela Tuesday, while Japan moves on to a showdown with Venezuela.
United States 7, Mexico 0 (Exhibition)
It was just an exhibition game, but the United States got off to an excellent start with a 7-0 victory over Mexico. Sure, it won't count in the long run, but it was an impressive performance and should give the Red, White and Blue some confidence going forward.
It was a pitcher's duel through the first three innings, with the United States holding on to a narrow 1-0 lead, but the eventual victor broke out in a big way in the fourth inning.
The United States pushed four across the plate in the fourth, led by a home run from Taylor Hoagland and a two-run triple from Michelle Moultrie. ASA and USA Softball was there to capture the excitement for the Americans during the rally:
The United States tacked on another two runs in the fifth and won 7-0.
Pitcher Jaclyn Traina was absolutely on fire from the mound with six strikeouts in 3.1 shutout innings. She only gave up three hits on the outing.
Next up for the Americans is a showdown with Venezuela Tuesday, while Mexico will face off against the Philippines.
Japan 8, Venezuela 1
Poor Venezuela. Forced to play mighty Japan after a doubleheader the previous day, the South American side was unable to put together a full game and lost to the two-time World Cup of Softball champions 8-1 in just five innings of play.
Venezuela might have had some confidence going into the contest, as Canada trounced Japan 11-4 on Day 1, but it was clear this team needed very little time to bounce back from a disastrous beating.
Japan wasted no time getting things back on track in this one. Eri Yamada doubled home Nozomi Nagasaki to give her team a 1-0 advantage in the first inning, and then Misa Okubo knocked in Haruna Sakamoto in the top of the second inning to double Japan's advantage.
Venezuela got one back with a Jineth Pimentel single to score Mirian Jimenez in the bottom of the second inning. Things settled into a bit of a pitcher's duel for the next couple of innings. Japan's Kana Nakano gave up just two hits over three innings, and then Yukari Hamamura came in to pitch a three-up, three-down bottom of the fourth.
Japan then took pitcher Maria Gomez to task in the fifth inning, posting six runs in all, highlighted by a two-run homer from leadoff batter Yukiyo Mine. Gomez had come in for Alondra Perez in the third inning but was unable to continue her teammates' steady work.
Hamamura then shut the door in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game early.
ASA and USA Softball called out the end of the game:
There is no rest for the weary and downtrodden, as Venezuela will have just a few hours to regroup as they take on the United States in Tuesday's final contest.
Japan will look to take on Mexico on Wednesday.
Mexico 7, Philippines 0
Mexico's Brandi Melero went 2-for-2 with six RBI and a grand slam to propel her team to a dominant 7-0 victory over the Philippines.
The Philippines was completely unable to build on its Day 1 victory over Venezuela, as a confident Mexico team led by pitcher Erika Bennett rendered the offense useless in this one.
Mexico had trouble getting any traction against Veronica Belleza for the first two innings, but it broke through in a big way in the third.
Kylie Padilla drew a walk, then took second on a sacrifice play. Tatiana Alcala then promptly knocked her in with a double for Mexico's first run. Belleza, reeling, walked Marrissa Bravo to put runners on first and second. Brandi Melero then laced a double to score both Alcala and Bravo. The Philippines elected to take Belleza out of the game for Annalie Benjamin after the third.
Meanwhile, Bennett was busy toying with the Philippines lineup. She pitched five innings and gave up just two hits and no walks while striking out seven.
The Philippines still had a fighting chance, but Melero ended the game with a mighty grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning. ASA and USA Softball was highly congratulatory to Melero:
Both teams return to action on Wednesday. The Philippines will take on Canada, while Mexico looks to upset Japan on Day 3.
Canada 3, Chinese Taipei 2
In a highlight finish worthy of the national stage, Canada upended Chinese Taipei with a two-out, bases-loaded walkoff single by Carey-Leigh Thomas.
One day removed from losing to Venezuela and in the face of an opponent that had posted 11 runs on Japan to force a premature finish, Meng Ting Lai and Co. actually did well to hang around with the Canadians for most of the competitive affair.
But in the end, the effort was to no avail thanks to the strong work by Canada's Jenna Caira in the circle. She tossed five scoreless innings—including just three hits and fanning five—and only when she left the contest did Chinese Taipei get on the board with a two-run homer from Hui Wen Huang.
Luckily for the Canadians, that made it 2-2 with room to breathe. After loading the bases and a force out at home plate, Thomas came through to give her team its second win. They'll be back in action on Thursday in a doubleheader.
USA 5, Venezuela 0
One day removed from a 7-0 exhibition victory over Mexico, the U.S. was once again strong in the circle en route to a dominant victory on Wednesday night.
Jolene Henderson went six innings, striking out three and allowing one hit before surrendering duties to Jessica Moore, who quickly ended the contest.
Offensively, it was Jessica Plaza who played the biggest role in USA's nine hits and five runs, thanks to her two-run homer in the sixth inning. Stanford Softball captured the special moment that provided plenty of cushion for the eventual victory:
Plaza's scoring was actually sandwiched between the opening and closing salvos from USA. In the fifth inning, Michelle Moultrie drove home Haylie McCleney on a single, and in the seventh Lauren Gibson hit an RBI double before being driven home Hallie Wilson.
For USA, the dominance in all facets is a great sign as they head into a showdown on Thursday night against the Phillippines.
Canada 3, Philippines 1
The one-two combination of Karissa Hovinga on the mound and Carey-Leigh Thomas at the plate was more than enough for Canada to tally a narrow 3-1 victory over Philippines.
Hovinga only allowed a single hit in four scoreless innings of work and struck out two. Offensively, Thomas smacked three hits in three plate appearances and drove home the initial run of the game in the first inning.
Canada never looked back and remained ahead throughout the contest.
Francesca Foti took a hard-luck loss on the mound for Philippines. She threw six innings of her own and kept her team in the game by only allowing three runs, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
Canada’s timely hitting and shutdown pitching led the way.
Canada 8, Venezuela 2
Things escalated rather quickly for Canada in its 8-2 victory over Venezuela Wednesday.
ASA and USA Softball filled fans in on the details:
Venezuela led the game 2-0 after home runs from Yuruby Alicart and Ana Coscorrosa and appeared primed to notch an impressive victory until the seventh inning. Canada put two runs on the board to tie it up and then absolutely exploded in the extra inning when it pushed six more across the plate.
Kaleigh Rafter drove two in with a double in the eighth inning, and timely hitting from Carey-Leigh Thomas and Sara Hopwood added some insurance.
Maria Gomez must shoulder the majority of the responsibility for the loss from the Venezuelan perspective. She allowed five runs in just one inning of work and ultimately let the game slip away.
Japan 7, Mexico 0
All it took was one dominant inning from Japan in its 7-0 shellacking of Mexico Wednesday.
Japan scored four times in the second inning and received four RBI from Yu Yamamoto on the day. Yamamoto homered in that decisive frame and led the offensive attack throughout the game.
Dominic Alcocer allowed all seven runs for Mexico and took the loss, while her counterpart Yamato Fujita was dominant for Japan. Fujita held Mexico without a hit in three innings of work and tallied five strikeouts.
The game only lasted five innings.
United States 13, Philippines 1
Safe to say, the United States was not messing around Wednesday.
The Red, White and Blue didn’t waste much time and pushed eight runs across the plate in the opening inning. Valerie Arioto and Taylor Hoagland both blasted home runs in the first, and timely hitting by Raven Chavanne and Kelsey Stewart helped America really bust the game open.
Arioto wasn’t done though, and she drilled a grand slam in the fifth inning to add insult to injury as far as the Philippines side was concerned.
ASA and USA Softball captured the excitement of the moment:
Not to be overlooked in the offensive explosion was the impressive pitching performance from Sara Nevins. She only allowed a single run and a single hit and struck out four in two innings of work.
The game only lasted five innings.
Note: Results, stats and other information courtesy of USA Softball's website unless otherwise noted.