ENSCHEDE, Netherlands - For the first time in 12 years and for the third time in event history, the U.S. Junior National Team can call itself world champions as Team USA downed two-time defending titlist Japan, 3-1, to take the gold medal and complete the VIII ISF Junior Women's World Softball Championship in Enschede, Netherlands, at a perfect 10-0. The Red, White & Blue outscored its opponents over the 10 contests by a staggering 88-4 count.
With a 1-for-3, one run performance in the title game, Tennessee rising sophomore Tiffany Huff concluded her stay at the World Championship with a .440 (11-of-25) batting average to go along with two doubles, a triple, eight runs scored and six RBI.
Left fielder Brittany Lastrapes (one RBI), center fielder Alissa Haber, second baseman Ashley Hansen and shortstop Monica Harrison (one RBI) each had two of the American squad's 12 hits in the contest. Starting pitcher Ashley Brignac allowed an unearned run over 3.1 innings of work while scattering six hits. Hurler Megan Elliott picked up the win in relief by permitting four hits over two frames to improve to 3-0 at the event.
The game wasn't without some early drama, however, as for only the second time in its 10 match-ups, Team USA found itself trailing as Japan plated an unearned run in the top of the first for a 1-0 advantage.
The Red, White & Blue fought back in the bottom of the second frame by tallying two runs on five hits. Huff got the assault going with a single into center field. Starting pitcher Brignac helped her own cause with a base knock to place two on for Bianca Mejia. The designated player came through in the clutch with an RBI single back through the middle to knot the score at 1-1. Left fielder Lastrapes followed later with a base hit through the right side of the infield to score Brignac for a lead that the U.S. wouldn't relinquish.
The Americans managed to add an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth on a fielder's choice off the bat of shortstop Harrison that scored center fielder Haber to set the count at 3-1.
The Japanese squad registered runners in scoring position in every inning from the third through the sixth, but couldn't get the big hit they needed to cut into the deficit. Japan got the leadoff runner on safely in the seventh frame and advanced her to second on a sacrifice bunt, but reliever Donna Kerr (1.2 IP, 0 H, 2 K) recorded a strikeout and then got Yuki Hayashi to fly out to Lastrapes in left field to secure the world title for Team USA.
The Americans are WORLD CHAMPIONS!
***Enschede, Netherlands is six hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone