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ATHENS 2004

U.S. Softball Team Dominates Again in 7-0 Win

Greek squad featuring many Californians is its sixth opponent in a row to be held scoreless.

August 20, 2004|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The New York Yankees of softball, the U.S. Olympic team, won their sixth consecutive game here Thursday, beating Greece, 7-0, and continued rolling up impressive statistics:

* For the fifth straight game, the Americans gave up one hit.

* They remained unscored upon and now have outscored opponents, 38-0.

* For the fourth time in six games, play was stopped two innings short of the regulation seven, prompting the International Softball Federation to advise reporters that the name of the rule that ends a game if one team is seven runs ahead in the fifth inning is the "run-ahead" rule, not the "mercy" rule, as most were writing.

So overwhelming have the Americans been that the seven other teams in this round-robin tournament have long since realized that they can be best served by focusing on medals of silver or bronze.

Thursday's victim wore "Greece" on its uniforms, but actually was more like a California barnstorming team.

Because Greece is the host country, it gets an automatic entry in each sport. The rule apparently didn't inspire construction of softball fields here. So Americans with Greek heritage, as the rules allow, got a chance to play in the Olympics, and 11 of them are from California, one shy of the number of Californians on the U.S. team.

One of the first questions in the news conference afterward was, "How come you didn't just play this game in Santa Monica?"

The California kids, as opposed to the California Yankees, got to oppose the legend herself, 33-year-old Lisa Fernandez, who gave up her only hit to Ginny Georgantas of Tampa, a line single to left in the fifth. Fernandez, who led U.S. teams to the gold medal in Atlanta and Sydney, also batted cleanup and had two singles, one RBI and a walk.

Vanessa Czarnecki of Riverside, Greece's second baseman by way of Fresno State, grounded to third twice -- a successful day against Fernandez -- and said it was hard not to be a bit in awe: "Some of the girls were saying that it was strange playing against somebody whose name was on the bats we used to use."

The only thing that could get in the way of the Americans standing on the top step of the victory stand Monday would be a repeat of their Sydney experience, where their bats went dead late in pool play and they had to scramble to get into the medal round, where they eventually prevailed, scratching out one victory after another.

"That can happen," said catcher Stacey Nuveman. "But we haven't seen it here yet. Right now, our bats are on fire."

*

In other games, China (3-3) beat Taiwan, 1-0, scoring on a fielding error by first baseman Chang Li Chiu, and Juri Takayama and Yukiko Ueno combined on a three-hitter for Japan (3-3) in a 1-0 victory over Italy. Also, Simmone Morrow batted in the only run in Australia's 1-0 victory over Canada.

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