Ken Eriksen can only hope the near-perfect softball his American team played to win a sixth straight World Cup crown can help convince the International Olympic Committee to include the sport again in future Summer Games.
Samantha Fischer doubled in two runs, Michelle Moultrie circled the bases after dropping a bunt just in front of home plate and the U.S. beat Australia 3-0 Monday night to win the World Cup of Softball championship.
Jackie Traina, Jordan Taylor, Keilani Ricketts combined on a one-hit shutout and the Americans capitalized on two Australian miscues to score all their runs.
“We talk about playing flawless softball and the team that breaks first is the team that’s not going to have the best opportunity to win,” Eriksen said.
“At this level, you’ve got to be flawless. You’ve got to avoid the walks, you’ve got to avoid the errors and you’ve got to get two-out hits with runners in scoring position. We did that tonight.”
The title was the first building block of the summer as the U.S. chases its eighth straight world championship – the best the sport has to offer after getting dropped from the Olympics starting with this year’s London Games.
That’s the bigger quest for softball now. The sport’s leaders are trying to get the IOC to vote in 2013 to include softball in the 2020 Games.
The IOC voted in 2005 to drop softball largely because there weren’t enough countries playing it. There still is a gap between the top teams – the U.S. and Japan, which skipped the World Cup for financial reasons – and the rest of the world but Eriksen sees it closing.
The Netherlands, never before a softball power, made a strong showing and finished fourth. The Dutch overcame a six-run deficit before blowing a lead in the seventh inning of an 11-8 loss to Canada in the third-place game.
The U.S. trailed the Dutch earlier in the week before a late-inning rally. Games against Canada, Brazil and Puerto Rico ended in run-rule victories.
“It’s a worldwide sport and we have to play flawless softball to beat these teams now. We just can’t go on the field like we might have done 16 years ago, throw your gloves out there and expect to win. That doesn’t happen anymore,” Eriksen said. “The world’s catching up, NCAA softball’s catching up, there’s a lot of parity. The opportunities for women have been tremendous.
“The shame of the matter and the broken-heartedness of the whole deal is there’s probably more parity now than there ever has been before and we’re not going to get to see it worldwide, on the biggest stage there ever is.”
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