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September 16, 2000

USA dominates Canada with no-hitter, 6 - 0

Globe and Mail

Sydney — The powerful U.S. women's softball team proved too strong a match for Canada on Sunday.

Pitcher Lori Harrigan delivered a no-hitter and her teammates provided 10 hits as the gold medal favourites drubbed Canada 6-0 in the opening game of the preliminary round of the tournament.

Harrigan used a masterful changeup to keep the Canadian hitters guessing.

The Canadians began the game promisingly when the second hitter, Chere Boyer-Heisl reached base on an error. But she was forced out at second on Colleen Thorburn Smith's fielder's choice.

After that, however, Harrigan frustrated the Canadian hitters and prevented any further baserunners.

"I didn't think it was her best game but she did use her changeup to keep us off-balance," said second baseman Jackie Lance of Richmond, B.C.

It was the first solo no-hitter in the brief Olympic history of women's softball since the sport was introduced four years ago — there was one combined no-hitter in Atlanta.

The United States won gold in 1996 and since then have been virtually unbeatable — Sunday's victory was its 111th consecutive victory since 1998.

Canadian coach Ron Clarke left the impression that the Americans have the inside track to the gold medal in Sydney.

"They're a very good team, they're a quality team," he said. "It's going to take a very good team effort to beat them."

But Lance said that the Americans could be beaten. "That's why they keep score," she said.

Jennifer Brundage, Crysti Bustos and Dot Richardson hit home runs to pace the U.S. attack. The damage could have been worse: Lance made a sensational diving catch off a line drive by Christie Ambrosi to strand baserunners in the third inning. And right fielder Denise Carriere robbed Stacey Nuveman of a home run with a leaping catch at the fence.

Clarke said the game was a chance for the Canadian players to shake off their nervousness about appearing at the Olympics. Just one player, Thornburn Smith, played on Canada's fifth-place team four years ago.

By contrast, 11 U.S. players competed in Atlanta and know what to expect at an Olympic Games.

U.S. designated hitter Lisa Fernandez said the challenge for her team is to remain sharp. "We've got standards to uphold," she said. "It's one thing to get to the stop but it's different to stay there."

Clarke said his team must beat one of three teams — Japan, China or Australia — if it hopes to be one of the four teams to advance to the medal-round.

Canada plays New Zealand on Monday.


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