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In front of a standing-room-only crowd, the USA Softball Women’s National Team advanced to the gold medal game after a two out, top of the seventh run gave the U.S. a 2–1 victory.

Led by the efforts of starting pitcher Jennie Finch (La Mirada, California), who retired 15 batters via strikeout, the two-time Olympic gold medalist moved to 8–0 in the tournament. The one run allowed by the U.S. was its first in Pan Am play since August 2, 1999, when the U.S. defeated Colombia 8–1.

The United States held the lead at 1–0 through the fourth, thanks to solo home run to left field in the top of the second inning by Lovieanne Jung (Fountain Valley, California). But the Dominican Republic tied the game at 1–1 in the bottom of the fourth after Flor Daliza Florian singled to third base and designated player Geovanny Nunez ripped a double to right center plating Florian. But Finch remained solid in the circle, retiring the side with three strikeouts, leaving Nunez stranded heading into the fifth.

“After the run, I came back strong, and hopefully, that showed the other team that I wasn’t worried,” Finch said. “We knew that coming in, it was going to be a great atmosphere to play in. It was fun, and it was good for us to be in those kinds of situations to get our hearts and adrenaline going.”

The Dominican Republic then saw the possible winning run at first base in the bottom of the sixth after a fielding error by Bustos, but Finch and the U.S. defense responded strong with three straight outs to send the game into the seventh.

After a leadoff base hit to left center in the fifth by Natasha Watley ( Irvine , Calif. ) the U.S. offense looked to shift the momentum of the game. Leah O’Brien-Amico (Chino Hills, California) advanced Watley into scoring position after a successful sacrifice bunt to the third baseman. An intentional walk to Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, California) and a walk to Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, California) loaded the bases, but the U.S.’s failure to capitalize after a line drive to third base from Jung ended the half inning.

In the top of the seventh back-to-back fly outs to centerfield Bustos sent a high fly ball to the centerfield in what looked like the third out of the inning. But a fielding error by centerfielder De La Rosa allowed Bustos to reach third base with two outs. Stacey Nuveman (La Verne , California) then became the hero, knocking a 1–1 pitch to centerfield and plating Bustos for the 2–1 lead.

Needing just three outs to advance to its seventh consecutive Pan American gold medal game, Finch took care of business by striking out the side to end the game. The win put Finch at 2–0 in the Pan Am, while Amico led the U.S. going 2 for 3.

“We are still in the growing process with this team,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “We have to be more disciplined. We have a nice nucleus to this team, but they are still young. These games are very valuable to us with the crowd and environment because this is what it is going to be like from now until Athens.” Attempting to take home its fifth consecutive Pan American gold medal, the U.S. women will battle the winner of the Canada/Dominican Republic bronze medal game in the gold medal game at 6 P. M. on Thursday, August 14.

Pac-12 breakout star. Carlos Strickland.

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