Follow May-Johnson with USA Softball

Editor’s Note —Follow former Hawkeye and current UI assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson as she competes as a member of the USA Softball Team. Fans can also follow May-Johnson on Twitter at @StacyMayJohnson.

2011 Pan Am Games Photo Gallery | Photo Gallery 2 | ASA Facebook Page (including video of Coach May-Johnson)

Oct. 21 & Oct. 22
The weekend saw the beginning of the medal rounds and if you haven’t heard by now, WE WON GOLD! Here’s how it went down:

Our Saturday matchup was against Cuba. The winner of this game would advance directly to the finals, while the loser would have to win one more game to go to the championship. We got out to a four run lead in the second and never looked back. We saw three different Cuban pitchers and a fourth pitching change in which they brought the starting pitcher back in the game. We scored 13 runs in five innings on 14 hits and six walks. We ended the game with 14 hits in 26 at-bats… pretty tough to beat that.

The Cuban pitchers threw in the upper 60s, but they had trouble moving their pitches, so they ended up supplying a lot of power for us. Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma) pitched for us and although we had two errors defensively, she gave up only one hit and had 11 strikeouts with no walks in five innings…pretty tough to beat that.

The Cubans were totally dejected after the game, which I feel was a big psycologicial advantage for us going into the final day of competition. It was another great win to put us straight through to the gold medal game.

Our Sunday matchup was against Canada. Canada beat Venezuela on Saturday to advance to a game against Cuba on Sunday morning. This was a big advantage for us because Canada’s top pitcher had already thrown seven innings by the time our game started. We noted in the first inning that the Canadian pitcher’s (Jenna Caira, a senior pitcher at Syracuse) velocity was down.

Canada had runners on in the first, but we were able to weather the early storm to keep them off the board. We struck back in the bottom of the first on a Lauren Gibson (Tennessee) solo shot to centerfield. I tried to follow up with a solo shot of my own but the ball was caught at about the 225-mark in center field.

Canada came right back in the second with a run to tie the game up at one. That was the end of Canada’s good fortune. Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma) came into the game in relief for Jordan Taylor (Michigan, 2010), and Canada couldn’t get much going offensively.

Our offense, however, was clicking on all cylinders. We scored 10 additional runs to win the gold medal game in style with a final score of 11-1. The final hit of the game was a walk-off double into the right centerfield gap by Kelly Grieve (Tennessee, 2010) to give us a 10-run lead in the fourth, which triggered the mercy rule. It was an unbelievable end and a great run for USA.

We ended the tournament with the medal ceremony where we all got our gold medals (along with a stuffed animal?) and our nation’s anthem was played while we stood on the podium.

Only in Mexico… can you win a 2011 Pan Am gold medal!

Thanks to everyone for reading this…over and out!

Oct. 21
The last of our pool play games is complete! We won our final game against Argentina by a final score of 8-0 in five innings. Our 4 p.m. game saw a scoreless first inning, but we were able to score two runs in the second and one run in the third. We hit the ball well in the first three innings though many of our balls were right at people, but credit to the Argentinian team for making the plays.

We put up three runs in the fourth inning after an Argentinian miscue in the outfield and two more in the fifth inning to seal the game. Whitney Canion (Baylor) bounced back today with 10 strikeouts and only one hit in five innings. I played third and hit in the clean up spot. I ended the night with two hits, one of which was a walk-off two run home run in the bottom of the fifth. I must have eaten my Wheaties because the ball went to dead center (240-feet) over a 30-foot wall. Although we had already clinched the top seed going into the medal round, we were happy to get another decisive victory.

The medal round starts tomorrow with four teams advancing to the weekend. USA is the top seed, Cuba is a surprise second, Canada is third, and Venezuela is fourth. USA plays Cuba tomorrow at 6 p.m. and the winner advances to the championship game on Sunday afternoon. The loser of our game with Cuba will play the winner of Canada and Venezuela to see who goes to the gold medal game. We definitely want to take care of business tomorrow afternoon to make sure we only play one game per day.

‘Only in Mexico’: Only in Mexico can you have five bars for your Internet connection and still not be connected to the Internet. I’m wondering if maybe the bars are just a show to make people think there is a real Internet connection when in reality, there is a man behind a curtain somewhere playing a very mean trick on everyone in Mexico. If I ever find out who the man is, I will be sure to pull the plug on his operation.

Oct. 20
Yeah for a single games! That’s right, we only had one game today against Canada! Our focus before the game was to be relentless, and we ended up needing that relentlessness to get the victory.

We were the home team and in the top of the first inning, we gave up an inside the park home run followed by a double, two walks, one hit batter and all of a sudden we were down 5-0. We knew we had a long way to go to get back in the game.

We put together a rally in the first, but we were unable to score. Our pitching and defense settled in, and we put together a huge rally in the second inning to tie the game at five. At this point, we never looked back. We ended up winning the game 12-5 in six innings. I got some great action at third base, and I also hit a routine pop out to right field, which Canada turned into an inside the park home run…I’m going to let your imagination run wild on that one. πŸ™‚

We have one pool play game left against Argentina tomorrow, but we’ve already secured the top seed going into the medal round this weekend! We are doing well for the most part, but it’s all for nothing if we don’t push on through the weekend. We’ve got work to do!

Only in Mexico are the police guard dogs 10-pound jack russell terriers. I’m not really sure that the dogs prevent any crimes, but I do want to pet them.

Oct. 19
We had another doubleheader today, which started with a game against Cuba and a second game against Puerto Rico. We knew we would be in for a tough game against Cuba when we watched Cuba beat Canada last night. The Cuban pitchers threw hard against Canada and their defense was outstanding, so we knew we would have to play a solid game to win. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we did.

Jordan Taylor (Michigan, 2010) threw a great game giving up only four hits, and Whitney Canion (Baylor) came in in relief for the final two outs of the game. The Cubans looked solid at the plate and put a lot of balls in play, but I don’t think that they have ever seen anything like Jordan Taylor’s change-up so they struggled to get a big clutch hit.

At the plate, we saw hard flat pitches, and while we hit a lot of balls hard, many of them were caught. We were able to score three runs to beat Cuba in seven innings. I started at third base and hit third in the lineup. I had some really good swings that didn’t translate into much success, but I got a hit in the late innings into the 5-6 hole. The highlight of the game was a diving catch in the left centerfield gap by Rhea Taylor in the top of the seventh inning. Rhea ran a long way to catch a ball hit deep into the 240-foot gap, and the catch really solidified the win for us. We will no doubt need to beat Cuba again if we are going to win the gold medal.

Our second game was against Puerto Rico, and I felt that we had a little bit of an emotional letdown after a big win in a high energy game against Cuba. We did not play poorly, but we just weren’t quite as sharp in the second game. This game, however, was great experience for our team because we had some tough calls go against us, and we really had to work to walk away with the win. We saw much slower pitching, which forced us to adjust to the speed in order to score runs. We walked away with a 4-1 victory to cap off the day.

Here is the ‘Only in Mexico’ column for the day…

Only in Mexico can you drive a charter bus like it is in a NASCAR race. Our 25 minute drive to the field is an adventure every day. The lanes are really only suggestions and when your bus is the biggest vehicle on the road, you pretty much go anywhere you want and everybody else gets out of the way. We pass many cars, but we are never passed. Our bus’ horn exists to let people know that if they don’t get out of our way, they will be hit by our bus. You can think of driving in Mexico as a really exciting game of chicken. I’m a little scared for everyone around us, especially the occasional pedestrians which walk in the middle of the road, but we just swerve around them. Amazingly we don’t hit anything (other than curbs) and after two engine stalls and 62 honks we get to our field on time…so I guess I have to call transportation a success.

Oct. 18
Today was a long day! We had two games today vs. ‘Dominicana’ in the morning, and Mexico in the evening. In the morning game, we got off to a great start in the top of the first inning when we put up six runs. The game ended by the mercy rule after the fourth inning with a final score of 10-0. Chelsea Thomas threw a great four innnigs, and we played another solid game of defense. I started at shortstop and hit third in the lineup.

I got my first hits of the tournament including a two-run triple in the right centerfield gap. Those of you who know me well know that I don’t hit too many triples so you might be thinking that the outfielder fell down on the way to get to my ball, but it turns out that triples are not too hard to hit in this park. The fences are marked 220-feet but are actually 240 feet (see 10/17 blog) so the gaps are huge and most balls in the gaps are triples.

Our second game was a night cap against the host team Mexico! The crowd was crazy under the lights! Fortunately we were able to neutralize the crowd by beating Mexico soundly by a score of 7-0 in five innings. Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma) pitched for us and was throwing gas! Her fastest pitches were clocked at about 70 mph, and she mixed it with an inside drop which she takes a few miles per hour off of. She looked great on the mound! I got the game off so I’m ready to get back after it tomorrow!

Here is the `Only in Mexico’ column for the day:

The Pan Am Games are secured very heavily by the Mexican federal police. The village, in particular, has lookouts on top of the buildings, police patrolling inside the village, and dozens of police officers and heavily armed guards on the road which leads to the village. In order to enter the village you must have a credential and you must pass through a metal detector and a baggage X-Ray scanner. However, if your bags are too big to fit through the X-Ray scanner (for example large softball equipment bags), the guards just have you walk right through the metal detectors with the bags. Of course there is metal in the softball equipment bags and the metal detectors go off. At this point you might be thinking that the guards look inside the bags and send you back through the metal detector, but when you are in Mexico the guards just send you strait through to the village. I guess I just find it ironic that Mexico went through all the trouble to have hundreds of police everywhere then allow people with really large heavy bags to enter the village without any inspection.

Oct. 17
We had our first competition of the Pan American Games tonight against Venezuela, and we walked away with a big win! After four innings, the score was 10-0 and the mercy rule was applied. The score is not indicative of the quality of our opponent — Venezuela is a quality team, but we played very well.

We saw several of their pitchers, but they all had a hard time finding the strike zone. There was a combination of walks and big hits, which put the game out of reach very quickly. Jordan Taylor (Michigan, 2010) started the game and was on point in the four innings that she pitched, and the defense was very clean. I played third base and hit third in the lineup. I didn’t see too much action at third, but I ended the game 0-for-1 with two walks. We are excited to have gotten off to such a great start!

I am learning a lot about athletic competition played south of the United States. I am finding that the same sport values which we hold in the United States are not necessarily held here. On that note, I would like to write a column within my blog titled ‘Only in Mexico…’ Here it goes:

I’ve been told that international softball rules require a 220-foot fence. Only in Mexico can the left field and right field fences be marked 240 feet. Two days before competition, but by the time the first game starts, the same fence is marked 220-feet. I’m confident that the fence did not move 20-feet over night. But in order to be compliant with international rules, when you are in Mexico you can you change the length markings on your fence in order to be compliant. This really happened. πŸ™‚

Oct. 16
I got a great night’s sleep for the first time since we’ve been here, and I’m really happy about it. I even got up a little early to make sure I got two full meals before our 2 p.m. practice. Our practice actually started on time, and we had a great two hours of skill work. This will be our last practice before competition, and I feel that we are in a good place as a team entering our first game. I personally made some simple offensive adjustments today and am feeling very confident that I will be able to get the job done this week. Our first pool play game is tomorrow night against Venezuela at 6 p.m. We are ready to start our run!

Oct. 15
After a great night, we got back to work with a noon practice. Well, we were scheduled for noon, but because we are in a foreign country and clocks don’t seem to mean as much around here, we ended up starting at about 12:40. We are prepared for distractions of this kind when competing in a foreign country so it didn’t bother our team too much. We ended up having a great practice, which included about an hour of scrimmaging.

After practice we came back to the village and tried to get our laundry taken care of. There is a Mexican company doing all of our laundry so many of us were missing items and others got nothing back at all…more distractions. Also, phones and Internet were down for about 24 hours. We just take it all with a grain of salt. We are here to win a gold medal and nothing will take our focus from our purpose.

Oct. 14
It was an early morning today! We had an 8 a.m. practice, which means that I was out of bed at 5:45 a.m. due to driving and dining hall time. The dining hall is great, but it can take a long time to get food. At 6:00 a.m. there was no wait time but at about 3:00 p.m. the wait is 45 minutes to one hour! There are several hundred athletes eating in the hall and while it is a huge hall, it just takes a long time to feed that many hungry people.

We ended up having a great practice this morning. After defensive reps we took a little time to get used to the huge field dimensions (240 feet around, with about a 30-foot fence). It will take a BOMB to get the ball out of this park, but I think that we will see a few due to the fact that we are at about 5,000-feet elevation in Guadalajara and the ball travels further in the thin air. The field is in great shape, which is a huge relief because I wasn’t sure what to expect when playing in Central America.

Tonight should be an exciting night with opening ceremonies starting at 7:00 p.m.! The ceremonies will be held at the soccer stadium, which is a short walk from the village, and I plan on taking a camera in to take some pics for you all!

The opening ceremonies were amazing! I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the whole show was incredible! I’m not really sure that I can put into words what it was like, but here it goes. The ceremonies started with a parade of all of the countries present in alphabetical order. As each country came into the stadium, they were led by a traditional Mexican ‘seniorita’ bearing a flag with the country’s name. As each country was announced, the crowd of approximately 45,000 people cheered loudly. The parade went around the center portion of the arena before being led to their seats on the stadium floor. By the time they got to the E’s (Estados Unidos, United States in Spanish) the stadium was rockin’! I must say that Mexico stole the show. They were the last country to enter the stadium and when they did, the crowd went insane singing ‘Mexico, Mexico’ in a melody that they all seemed to know. Each Mexican athlete was wearing a tradition Mexican outfit with black pants, cowboy boots, a big belt buckle, a white button up shirt, and of course a HUGE sombrero!

After all of the countries got to their seats, the show began. There were several famous Mexican musicians, speaches by the high ups including the President of Mexico from his private box, and several acrobatic/dancing shows with people suspended in the air. Multiple times during the ceremony, fireworks were let off from the top portion of the stadium which could be seen because it is an open air stadium with a large circular covering over the stands. The final portion of the ceremony was an audience interactive laser show where each section had a certain colored light which they turned on when the corresponding color and tune was presented from the main stage.

It was incredible. Everyone here who was in China for the Bejing Olympics said that these opening ceremonies rivaled the 2008 Olympic ceremonies. and I don’t doubt it.

Oct. 13
We got up early this morning for a 9 a.m. direct flight from Houston to Guadalajara, Mexico. After getting our luggage and going through customs, we got on a bus for a 45 minute ride to the Pan American Village. The drive to the village was a sober reminder that we are no longer in the United States. The way of life in Guadalajara is different from our way of life and it may take some getting used to over the next couple of weeks.

Although the culture is different here, Guadalajara went out of its way to make us comfortable in the Pan Am Village. We are in a dorm-style building with several people to an apartment. My particular dorm has four people with one and a half bathrooms (which is better than seven people with two and a half bathrooms like the rest of my team!). Overall, it’s a great set up! Over and out!

Oct. 8 through Oct. 12
With the Pan American Games looming in the horizon, USA Softball reunited in Houston, Texas, for training and processing. I was so excited to meet up with my teammates and get back out on the field. Our trip to Houston included practices, two games against Texas A&M, and one game against the University of Houston. We came away with three wins and those of us who haven’t seen the field in a while got a chance to see some live action. Overall the trip was a success and despite some rain we regained some of our team cohesiveness.

I must say that my favorite part of the trip was processing. I was expecting processing to include some evil medical examination and probing questions, but it did not. Processing, it turns out, is code for getting a bunch of free United States Olympic Committee Nike gear. We ended up getting some great gear for opening ceremonies, practice, and just lounging around. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to wear the Red, White, and Blue on foreign soil.

July 23
We started the day off with a game against Canada with game time temperature of 108 degrees! We struggled in the early innings with both our pitching and hitting. Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead to take the early momentum. Opposing pitcher Jena Caira from Syracuse kept us off balance with her change-up and some well placed drop balls. We battled, but came up empty before eventually falling by the 4-3 count.

After a few hours off, we were back at the field for an 8 p.m. game against Japan. Despite some early inning defensive woes, our offense answered in a big way at the plate. The highlight was a grand slam by Valerie Arioto (it feels like I write her name a lot! She is a great hitter and still has one more year of school at California!). We ended up winning 8-4 and got ourselves back into first place!

July 22
We had our second pool play game of the tournament against Australia tonight, and we posted our second win! We played a little better, but still need to improve our play for tomorrow. We got a pep talk after the game from former Olympian Crystl Bustos, which really got us fired up. There is so much passion from all of the former USA players for the game of softball, and it is fun to see! I hope we can take the energy from our pep talk into our two games tomorrow!

July 21
We had our first game against the Czech Republic tonight. We got the win, but I can’t say we played all that well. Whitney Canion started on the mound and Chelsea Thomas came in to pitch in the sixth. Our pitching staff did a nice job, but we were a little rough at times on defense. We were late to get going at the plate, but we ended up putting up enough to win. It was a lot of fun to play on ESPN and my phone and Facebook blew up during and after the game! Our game highlights made Sportscenter, including my home run, and our 5-6-3 double play was No. 10 on Sportscenter’s top-10 plays! Pretty cool! Back at it tomorrow night against Australia!

July 20
My alarm went off early this morning for some drug testing. After some breakfast, we headed out for a defensive practice. We got some skill work in, and I got to do a few run throughs at my new position (short stop).

I got a good nap in after practice before getting ready for an evening clinic followed by batting practice. We should finish up about 8:30 p.m. and then I am so excited for a full night’s sleep! Our first game is tomorrow night against the Czeck’s so I’ll need my rest! Don’t forget that the game will be on ESPN at 7 p.m.!

July 19
I had to set my alarm to get to breakfast by 10 a.m. this morning, just to give you an idea of how tired I am! The good news is that after breakfast I had a whole three hours off. I spent an hour at the pool making friends with the Australian team, took a nap then got all cleaned up and pretty for media time. We spent all afternoon talking with media and filming prep for ESPN. My eyes looked really tired the whole time, so if they put any of my video on tv just go back and read my blog from the last week to figure out why I look so sleepy. πŸ™‚

After about three hours of media time, we went back to the hotel to get practice stuff. Practice went from 7-9 p.m. then I went to the pancake house for a late dinner. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a late night and an early morning… drug testing starts at 6 a.m. in the morning.

July 18
We are back in the States! I love American currency. I love American television. I love having Internet on my phone. I love having internet all the time. I love American food, and I love the price of American food. I love Sportscenter…in short, I’m so glad to be back in the country!

It has been a long travel day, and I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep!

July 17
Since our winner’s bracket game was cancelled last night, we ended up playing Japan this morning at 10:30 a.m. We jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI double by Valerie Arioto, but Japan answered with three runs to take the 3-1 lead. We battled late to tie the game at three, but Japan scored in the bottom of the seventh to win the game, 4-3.

After dropping our winner’s bracket game, we dropped into the loser’s bracket to face Australia. Despite an early 1-0 advantage for Australia, our bats came alive for a convincing 5-1 lead. Jordan Taylor pitched a great game shutting down Australia each time they had base runners on. The highlight at the plate was Brittany Schutte’s two home runs!

With the win, we got another crack in the championship at Japan. Unfortunately, we had trouble on both sides of the ball. We were hit hard early and our bats were dead at the plate. We ended up losing 7-0 in our third game of the day.

I will say that it is ok with me if I never play three games in one day again. My “old bones” can’t take that :).

I have to give credit to Ueno (Japan’s pitcher) as she is a world class pitcher. Surely we have not seen the last of her so at least we got some at-bats to see what she has. I think the next time we see her we will have some more success with a little more information.

Following the three games, I was pretty tired, but we still had the medal presentation. In addition to our silver medals, Ashley Holcombe received the award for best catcher, and I was honored as the best defensive player!

Overall, I feel that we improved a lot as a team in Canada, and we got a really good feel for the pace and style of international competition. I got a lot of good time at the short stop position, and am feeling comfortable at the plate. I think we are in a good place going into the World Cup in Oklahoma City.

July 16
RAIN! Our winner’s bracket game against Japan was cancelled due to rain. I guess that makes for a long day tomorrow!

July 15
Yesterday was the last day of pool play, so we started our double elimination bracket play today. We earned the top seed, so we played the eighth-seeded White Rock Renegades from Canada. Despite a slow start at the plate and some early inning Renegade baserunners, we ended up winning the game 8-0 in six innings. The final score was a little misleading as the score was only 2-0 after four innings. It was a great reminder to not take any opponent for granted and to jump on any opportunities to score runs early in the game.

I played shortstop again this game, and each time out, I’m getting more comfortable defensively. I’ve been making all of the routine plays, and continue to attack the ball on a tricky infield. At the plate, I had an RBI single up the middle in three at-bats. I could have done a little better, however, since in my first at-bat I got a change-up right down the middle, which I sat on but I flew out to right field. A little better swing would have put the ball over the center field fence.

Our second winner’s bracket game was against the So Cal A’s. We faced a hot pitcher in Megan Denney, who pitched at the University of Texas. This game we jumped on them early and never looked back. We ended up winning the game 7-0 in five innings.

The catalyst for our team is definitely the speed at the top of the line-up. Our lead-off and two hitters are easy to score when they get on base since they steal second base at will and score from third on almost any ball. They make hitting in the middle of the line-up easy!

Jordan Taylor pitched for us, giving up zero hits and two walks in five innings. Playing defense behind her is pretty boring! I started at shortstop, but I didn’t touch the ball except to throw it around the diamond after a strikeout. πŸ™‚

Offensively, I had one hit in one at-bat with two walks. The A’s pitcher threw some good pitches, but she was also a great hitting speed when she left her ball up in the zone.

Since we were victorious in both of our winner’s bracket games, we play again at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night (it would have been 8:00 am if we had lost…YIKES!).

July 14
We played our second game against Canada today in front of another packed crowd, although the stands emptied pretty quickly when our bats came alive! Keilani Ricketts, our hard throwing left handed pitcher, threw a shutout and we won the game 8-0 in five innings. The Canadians threw Jenna Caira, a change-up pitcher who throws at Syracuse. She gave us trouble in the first two innings but by the second time through the line-up, we made great adjustments. We put up three runs in the third inning which forced a pitching change in the fourth. We shelled the second pitcher, putting up five runs in the bottom of the 4th inning alone. I played short and had a great day at the plate with a single to left field and an opposite field home run with two runners on in the fourth, which was the dagger in the Canadian team’s heart! I’m glad to feel my power stroke coming back!

July 13
Our game today was against Australia and despite some bad luck for one of our pitchers, we were able to secure the victory with a huge team offensive performance. Whitney Canion started the game and Chelsea Thomas (native of Pleasantville, Iowa) got the save. Whitney Canion didn’t give up any runs, but Chelsea gave up two runs on five hits in one inning… a little misleading, however, since three of the five hits were swinging bunts and the other two hits didn’t leave the infield! Our offense picked up the slack, however, putting up 14 runs! I started at shortstop and had my first international home run, a three-run bomb to left field! What a thrill!

July 12
Our first game of the day was against Japan, and we were looking to avenge our 1-0 from Saturday. It was a tight game through the early innings with Japan jumping out to a early one-run lead, but we broke out in the fifth inning putting up five runs on the board.

It started with a two-out RBI single by Taylor Hoagland to right field. With two outs and runners at the corners, I came to the plate and laced a double down the left field line to knock in two more runs! The next two hitters behind me had back–to-back hits putting up the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.

The score would hold, and we got the win against Japan with a final score of 5-1, but it came at a price. Our starting shortstop (and my roommate), Molly Johnson, broke her leg in a collision with the catcher at the plate dealing a big blow to our defense. I started the game as the designated player, but went in at shortstop after the injury. I will now likely be playing shortstop, at least for the rest of the Canada Cup and World Cup. I think Molly will be healthy by the time we play at the Pan American Games in October, but we will have to make do until then. I’m confident that with the strength of our pitching staff we will be absolutely fine!

Our second game was against Venezuela and coming off of the big win against Japan, it was important not to let down! We kept our high level of energy throughout the second game and came away with the 10-0 victory. I started at shortstop and saw a couple of balls. The first was a routine ground ball and the second was a hard hit ball into the five-six hole. The play in the hole was difficult, but I managed to get in front of the ball in hopes that I would have a strong throw to first. Unfortunately, the ball kicked hard off the ground and off the heel of my glove allowing the runner to go to second. I played the ball aggressively but it got the best of me… honestly, it’s the type of mistake I can live with, but I expect that after a few more games and some more work at short, it’s the type of play I expect to make!

With two solid wins, overall, it was a great day! I’m looking forward to getting after Australia tomorrow!

July 11
Today we had a single game against Canada, the host team, in front of a packed crowd! Again, we got a strong pitching performance, only giving up one run. We’ve only given up two runs in two games so our pitching and defense has been solid all around.

Our offensive performance was a little slow, and we took a 1-1 tie into extra innings. We ended up coming away with the 3-1 victory in the eighth inning on a two-run double by Molly Johnson. I started at third base, but our pitching was outstanding, so I only saw one ball come my way. At the plate, I had one hit in four at-bats. My timing was improved, but my pitch selection was not great, so I’m not too happy with my performance at the plate. Tomorrow is another day!

July 10
We played a single game against Venezuela today. We ended up winning 8-0, but the win was a little tougher than the score let on. Valerie Arioto hit a ball in the first inning which would have been grand slam if the Venezuelan left fielder hadn’t reached over the fence and brought it back. We weren’t able to score until the fifth inning when we put six runs on the board followed by two more in the sixth. Arioto connected on a home run after all, when she bombed a ball over the right field fence, this time with no doubt that it would go over!

I played shortstop and hit in the five spot. I got a couple of balls at short, and am really starting to settle in at my secondary position. Offensively, I put some balls on the ground in the infield and got on base, but I felt that my timing was a little off. I’ll be working to improve my timing tomorrow!

July 9
We had our first international competition today against the Australian National Team and Japan. We started the day with a solid win against Australia. We shut them out in the win and got off on the right foot. I started at third base and had a base hit in my first at-bat. Although the win was solid, we felt that we could have hit the ball a little better as a team so there is still room to improve.

Our second game against Japan was a pitching duel, which we ended in a 1-0 loss in nine innings. Keilani Ricketts pitched an amazing game for us, so it was a shame that we couldn’t get her the run support to win.

I started as the designated player in this game, but it wasn’t until my fourth at- bat that I made a good adjustment at the plate. In the top of the ninth inning, I drove a ball to right field with runners on first and second with one out. If the ball had fallen, we might have had a different outcome, but unfortunately, it was right at the right fielder, and we were unable to score. Japan is a very good team, and I am looking forward to getting another crack at beating them.

July 8
It’s been a cool day in Canada, and I didn’t pack enough pants or jackets, but with a high of about 70 degrees, it was perfect softball weather. The morning started off with a trip to the rental car store, and I’m the only member of the team who gets to drive a van, which is really nice because I have my own wheels whenever I need them! How did I get so lucky? It might be related to my elder status on the team.

We had a 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. tune-up practice to prepare for our games, and I think we’re feeling pretty good going into our first games. After practice I came back to the hotel and ran on the hotel treadmill for a few minutes but after that we were free for the evening. After some dinner at Red Robin and a movie in the hotel room, I’m ready for bed.

I’ll sleep well knowing we have two games and a long day ahead of us tomorrow!

July 7
I’m back on the road today, this time to Canada, eh! I can’t wait to see a moose while I’m here. Maybe Canada will have one in the dugout… you never know. πŸ™‚

My four hour flight from Chicago to Vancouver was uneventful, but I’m happy to be on the ground. When I walked out of the airport the temperature was only in the high 50’s, so I’m expecting some cool night games this week. It’s better than the sauna we played in down in Florida!

I’m excited to see some beautiful country and really looking forward to my first international competition! Canada, Japan, Australia — they are all here, so it should be a great week!

July 4
Our road trip on the East Coast finished with a doubleheader in Bowie, Md., against the US Junior National Team. We were able to pull out another couple of solid wins and finished the road trip on top. The crowd favorite was Lauren Gibson (2B from Tennessee) who grew up in Maryland. She had a couple of big hits for the home crowd and they went wild!

I saw one game at third base and one game at short stop, but I was not thrilled with my defensive effort in either game, since I had an error in both games. I still have some kinks to work out, but I’m confident that I will get to where I need to be before we go to Canada on Thursday (I’ve got work to do!).

Offensively, I continued to see the ball well and had three hits in five at-bats with two walks. The offensive highlight for me was a two-out double into the right field gap, which scored two runs. I have to send a shot out to Val Arioto (1B from California) who hit behind me in both games. She had a great couple of games, and I saw great pitches to hit because of her. It’s pretty awesome when the pitcher looks at the on-deck circle with a little fear in her eyes!

After the game we signed autographs for about 45 minutes then got back to the hotel. It was a late night! I didn’t get to bed until 2:30 a.m. which was awful because I had to be up at 4:30 to get to the airport…it was miserable :(.

Now that our road trip is over, I’m off the map for a couple of days for the holiday weekend, then back in the office in Iowa before I hit the road Thursday for the Canada Cup in Vancouver.

I’ll pick back up with the blogging from Canada… ciao until then!

June 30
It was a late night last night and instead of blogging, I went to bed. πŸ™‚

Yesterday began with a morning session of batting practice. I have to start by saying that our pitching coach, Mike White (Head Coach at Oregon), throws amazing batting practice! I hear he was a great pitcher in his day, and I believe it! After batting practice we went to lunch at a local restaurant. After a couple of hours rest, we left for our doubleheader against the juniors.

We played in the Red Sox minor league ball park in Salem, Va., which was a great venue. We were victorious in both games and got good work in defensively, as the juniors had quite a few baserunners on in the first game. I saw action at third base in the first game and after our main shortstop broke her knee brace sliding into third, I moved over to short and played the remainder of the first game and the second game at that position.

I got some action at third, but not too much at short. At the plate, I had three hits and a walk, including my first home run in a USA uniform! It was a great thrill! Katie Cochran also hit a home run yesterday, and Chrisi Orgeron hit a ball which was foul by a couple of feet, which would have been a grand slam!

This trip has been about learning to play as a team, and it has been a lot of fun to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. After the game, we signed autographs for about an hour and then… of course… we went to IHOP. Where else would you go at midnight? I ended up getting to bed about 1:30 a.m. That’s pretty late for these old bones.

This morning, we hit the road for our five hour drive to Bowie, Md. When we get there, we will have practice and then hopefully get to bed at a reasonable time.

June 29
I woke up in Roanoke, Va., this morning after a great night’s sleep. It’s no coincidence that I’ve slept so well on this trip… it’s all because of our workouts! The beginning of every practice is a tough dynamic warm-up followed by fundamentals practice. For me and the other infielders, this means quick repetition ground balls and throws to bases. There isn’t any rest and I’m working at three positions (3B, SS, and 2B), so I’m pretty tired by the end of it. I like this part of practice since I feel like I’m closer to game shape every day.

Today we left the hotel at 11:30 a.m. and started with batting practice followed by defensive practice and warm-ups. After this, we ran a controlled scrimmage against the Junior National Team. We were scheduled to play two six inning games, but a storm moved in and ended the second game in the bottom of the second inning.

I played half of the first game at second and the first two innings of the second game at shortstop. I fielded a couple of bunts at third and snagged a line drive at short. At the plate, I hit a triple on a change-up to drive two runs in and hit a line drive down the left field line which ended up being a sacrifice fly. The highlight of the game for me, however, was a big time over the shoulder catch in center field by Michelle Moultrie from the University of Florida. She ran all day to catch that ball!

Tomorrow, we have a doubleheader in Bowie, Md., against the juniors. I’ve heard that they are expecting a great crowd. I’m looking forward to it!

June 27
Today is a travel day. We go from Tampa to Virginia, and I’m guessing we will have practice when we get there. My body is feeling much more rested today, and I’m not sore, so it’s a good day. I’m looking forward to a great week of training!

June 26
We had our first live game action in a doubleheader last night against the USA Junior National Team, and it went really well. We won both games soundly despite some great young talent on the junior team. The “old ladies” didn’t look too bad either. πŸ™‚ We hit the ball well including several home runs in addition to some solid pitching. All four of our pitchers threw (Jordan Taylor (Michigan), Whitney Canion (Baylor), Chelsea Thomas (Missouri) and Keilani Ricketts (Oklahoma).)

I saw action at third base for five innings and short stop for the final two innings of the first game. I saw four at-bats and had three hits, but there are still some improvements I need to make at the plate.

My first hit was on a rise ball on the inside part of the plate, which I put on the ground in the five-six hole. I definitely need to get that ball in the air for extra bases. I also saw a hung change-up, which I put in the air for an out. I sat on the pitch, but I just missed it, and I expect that as I get closer to mid-season form I will do a better job driving that pitch.

We originally had a doubleheader scheduled, but due to rain, we had afternoon batting practice instead. It was a good chance to work on some things from yesterday’s game.

Tonight, we will probably go to dinner and a movie, our first chance to do something fun! Tomorrow morning, we hit the road for Virginia and more training and exhibitions against the junior team. I’m hoping for a little cooler weather! Our bodies have been pushed to the max this week and the heat makes it tougher, but we’ve battled through the pain! Game shape doesn’t come easy!

June 25
I’m off on my first road trip with USA Softball! I got on a plane out of Cedar Rapids on Thursday morning and arrived in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday afternoon. We had a team meeting that night before getting to bed.

Friday morning started with a 9-12 practice at the University of South Florida’s brand new softball facility. We started with fundamental work followed by defensive schemes. It was a hot one! I’m not used to this Florida heat.

After a shower and some time in the cold tub, we went back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.

We got back on the bus at 4:45 p.m. to head back to the field. Since it was raining, we had an offensive circuit in the covered batting cages.

After arriving back at the hotel, I made tacos for my roommates (Megan Langenfeld (UCLA), Molly Johnson (Kentucky) and Jordan Taylor (Michigan). We watched the College World Series and got to bed for some much needed sleep.

Today, Saturday, saw some early rain and our morning practice was cancelled. This afternoon, we will get back out to USF for pregame batting practice before heading to Plant City for a doubleheader versus the USA Junior National Team. It will be a late night since the game starts at 6 p.m., and we will sign autographs after the the game.

We are really excited to get on the field to see what we’ve got! It will be a fun night!