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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | SOFTBALL

Bustos Busts Out With Two Homers

Softball: Henderson gives up two hits, but U.S. power makes the difference in second win, a 3-0 decision over Cuba.

September 18, 2000|BILL DWYRE | TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

BLACKTOWN, Australia — There was big news on two fronts at the Olympic softball venue today, but neither had to do with the United States women's team being in any danger of losing.

They won their second consecutive game, and their 112th in a row, in the preliminary rounds of an event in which they are expected to win the gold, barring a challenge from archrival Australia, whom they play Thursday.

Cuba was the second victim of this U.S. powerhouse, giving up three home runs in a 3-0 loss that followed Sunday's 6-0 clubbing of Canada.

The real news:

* U.S. pitching actually gave up two hits and allowed three runners as far as second base.

* Shortstop Crystl Bustos moved within one home run of the Olympic record, and there are as many as seven games to play.

The U.S. pitching staff of six had three players with an earned-run average of 0.00 during the team's 60-game summer tour. Its worst pitcher in terms of ERA, Danielle Henderson, was 0.13. So when Cuba got two singles, one an infield scratch hit, it was as rare as Bobby Knight remorse.

In Sunday's opener, left-hander Lori Harrigan turned in the first solo no-hitter in Olympic softball history, which extends to its beginnings in '96 in Atlanta. Monday, Henderson, the only member of the current pitching staff not on the gold-medal team in Atlanta, gave up the two singles but never seemed to be in real danger and ended up getting the win, with relief from Christa Williams. Williams struck out the side in the seventh inning.

But the star clearly was Bustos, a 23-year-old from Canyon Country, who hit two home runs, giving her three in her first two games and putting her in great shape to tie or break the Olympic record of four. She hit the first pitch she saw on a line to dead center and it landed six rows up in the seats.

"I'm very big on hitting the first pitch," she said, "and this one I got a perfect look at."

She waited three pitches before hitting her second homer in the fourth inning, this one a solid fly to right-center that completed the U.S. scoring, which had consisted of Bustos' two swings and a homer by Sheila Douty of Diamond Bar, who followed Bustos in the second with a shot to left.

Bustos was an outsider to this group until a year or so ago. As a member of the Women's Pro Softball League, a little-known league in the U.S., she was not eligible for international competition until they changed the rules in 1999.

As a member of the Akron Racers pro team, she had a reputation for having incredible power, but the international team players, some of whom play their pro ball in Japan and earn considerably more than players in the WPSL, had barely heard of her. Also, all the other players went to major colleges, whereas Bustos stopped with a junior college career.

Bustos tried out for the U.S. junior developmental team in 1995, but didn't make it and, reportedly, wasn't happy. There was some discussion that it was her Mexican-American heritage that hurt her, but that has been denied from all parts of the U.S. softball program and all Bustos will say about it now is that she wasn't liked because "I wore my cap backwards."

Eventually, U.S. officials had to see if Bustos' mystique was real and invited her to a tryout camp. They saw a player hitting 300-foot blasts on a regular basis, which is especially impressive since softball fences in international play are about 200 feet.

Her success has not gone to her head, but to her family. She recently bought a new house in Canyon Country and moved in various members of her family.

The next U.S. game is Tuesday against Japan, a 3-1 winner over China today.

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