By ANDREW WILLIAMS
Runs were at a premium for both teams Tuesday night as Team USA and a squad of Ohio college all-star players clashed in an exhibition doubleheader at The Marathon Diamonds.
The difference came in the form of Team USA’s dominant pitching staff and its ability to capitalize offensively on every little mistake the Ohio All-Stars made.
The result was a sweep by Team USA, 3-0 in the opener and 5-0 in the nightcap, which was cut short after 5½ innings due to the threat of incoming weather.
Team USA got a solid start in the circle from former Tulsa pitcher Aimee Creger, who silenced Ohio’s bats through four innings.
A 2013 member of the U.S. national team, Creger worked four innings, striking out four and retiring all 12 batters she faced in order to pick up the win in the opening contest.
“The way I’ve always been pitching, I usually always do better the longer I throw,” Creger said. “Which is weird but it’s always how it’s been for me. So after the first couple innings, getting used to the mound and stuff, it just sort of came together.
“It felt really, really good. But it’s something that doesn’t happen without great defense. So props to them, they did great today.”
Creger got excellent defense from first baseman and Arizona senior Hallie Wilson, who made a pair of excellent stops to record the first two outs in the second inning.
After three scoreless innings from both squads to open the game, Creger got her offensive support when former Loyola Marymount standout Samantha Fischer singled to lead off the frame and came around to score on a single by Florida junior Kelsey Stewart to put Team USA up 1-0.
Former Missouri player Nicole Hudson, who reached on an error, scored on former Tiger teammate Rhea Taylor’s groundout to shortstop to make it 2-0 through four innings.
Oregon junior Cheridan Hawkins came in to relieve Creger to start the fifth inning and got into trouble early by allowing a leadoff walk to Cleveland State’s Erica McNew followed by a double down the right field line from Miami University’s Jenna Modic.
Hawkins was able to bear down, though, striking out the next three batters in order to end the threat and keep Ohio off the scoreboard.
Haylie McCleney’s RBI single to center scored Stewart, who finished with two singles, a double and an RBI, in the bottom of the sixth to make it 3-0 and Hawkins struck out the side in the seventh to put the game away.
She faced 12 batters in her three innings of work, allowing two hits and issuing one walk while fanning eight batters.
Kent State’s Emma Johnson suffered the loss, giving up one earned run on six hits with one strikeout and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.
“It was just an awesome experience to be out here,” McCleney said. “I’ve never really played with USA before so it’s my first time. Just being out here, all the fans that were here, it was really special.
“To get key hits in key situations, it’s kind of what you want to do at the plate. Just really staying simple, barrel to the ball, seeing it deep and just trying to hit something through the infield.”
The USA Women’s National Softball team played two exhibition games at Findlay’s Marathon Diamonds on Tuesday, defeating the Ohio college all-stars 3-0 in the first game and 5-0 in the second game.
Team USA again took advantage of great starting pitcher, as former Alabama All-American Jaclyn Traina struck out four and allowed just one hit, a single to Kent State’s Kim Kirkpatrick, in four innings to earn the victory in the circle.
Three walks from Ohio State’s Shelby Hursh loaded the bases in the third inning for Team USA and Modic’s relief appearance got off to a rocky start when she walked Stanford’s Jessica Plaza to plate the first run of the game.
Former Oklahoma player Destinee Martinez drove in a run on a groundout to shortstop before McCleney drove in a pair of runs with a sharply hit ball back through the batter’s box and into center to run the score to 4-0 at the end of three innings.
“The wind was blowing in pretty much the entire time so you can’t really lift the ball because it’s not going to go anywhere,” McCleney said. “So really just trying to hit a hard ground ball and make the infielders make plays and let our speed around the bases kind of take care of itself.”
Former California pitcher Jolene Henderson worked the final two innings for Team USA, striking out two and allowing just a pair of hits, one of which came from former Elmwood High School and University of Findlay shortstop Emily Reynolds.
Team USA tacked on a run in the fifth when Martinez scored Arizona’s Kellie Fox, who was pinch running after Plaza doubled, with a single to provide the final margin of 5-0.
McCleney, who finished both games with three singles and three RBIs, was pleased with her inaugural performance as a representative of Team USA. She said to be able to make plays for the team and contribute was a unique experience.
“It’s a dream-come-true kind of feeling. It’s kind of surreal,” she said. “I know we’re not playing Japan, it’s not like a gold-medal game but I’m just so blessed to be wearing the jersey right now. To get a hit, get a couple catches out in the outfield here and there it was really special.”
OHIO ALL-STARS 000 000 0 — 0 2 3
TEAM USA 000 201 x — 3 9 0
WP — Creger. LP — Johnson. S — Hawkins. TOP HITTERS: (Ohio) Modic 2B; Ingalls 1B. (USA) McCleney 2-1B, RBI; Stewart 2-1B, 2B, RBI; Taylor 1B, RBI.
OHIO ALL-STARS 000 000 — 0 3 1
TEAM USA 004 01x — 5 5 2
WP — Traina. LP — Hursh. TOP HITTERS: (Ohio) Kirkpatrick 1B; Wildey 1B; Reynolds 1B. (USA) Plaza 2B, RBI; Martinez 1B, 2 RBI; McCleney 1B, 2 RBI.
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