For a pitcher who boasts 20 no-hitters and 10 perfect games in her collegiate career, giving up a hit and a walk in the first inning had the look of a shaky start.
Chinas Zou Zi managed a single off Cat Osterman on the first pitch of the game, but the offensive attack didnt last long as the U.S. cruised to an 8-0 victory in a mercy-rule shortened game.
Osterman made quick adjustments and gained strength as the game went on, finishing with seven strikeouts in a row. The biggest tip may not have been from head coach Mike Candrea, but from her dad who was rooting her on in the crowd.
Were not supposed to look in the stands, but my dad reminded me to spin the ball, Osterman said. He could tell I was over-throwing. After I realized that, I kind of relaxed and tried not to throw as hard and just spin it because thats what Im here to do and thats what Im known for.
She might have had good reason for starting the game a little rusty after two recent surgeriesone on her ankle and one on her shoulder. When asked how the shoulder felt she didnt seem too concerned. Its feeling ok. I just go back and forth as far as strength and how it feels, but its feeling good today.
Even if Osterman hadnt made adjustments, she would have likely gotten the win behind a U.S. team that has scored 17 runs in 10 innings. This time the fireworks were provided by Tairia Flowers fourth-inning grand slam. She continues her scorching offensive output from the Canada Cup last week where she batted a staggering .650. All year Ive been working hard and getting a lot of repetitions in, Flowers explained. My confidence just keeps building as our games go on.
The American team cant celebrate too much tonight as they will be back at it early tomorrow against the Dominican Republic in game one of a two-game set.
What is it like to be a rookie on the U.S. national softball team? For Caitlin Lowe, it meant having a bucket of balls hand-cuffed to her arm so she had to carry it around all day. For Jessica Mendoza, it meant finding her jersey in the toilet with a Baby Ruth bar and pineapple juice. For national team newcomer Jennie Ritter, it means something a little more practicalgetting in tune with two new catchers in three short weeks.
We have such a short time to get to know each other but theyve been both my roommates the past two weeks. Weve had a chance to sit and talk and I really like them, they know what theyre doing; they are really smart.
The last time Ritter stepped on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium she led Michigan to the Womens College World Series title in 2005. I drove in and it brought back a lot of memories. I started thinking about the team and how great it was. Im hoping to continue the success.
One reason for her collegiate success was how closely she worked with her battery-mate, Becky Marx. I think with catchers, you have a serious relationship, explains Ritter. To be on the same wave length and understand each other--beyond just pitches--its kind of a big thing.
Most pitchers have a more of a struggle getting into a rhythm with catchers, but this was not the case for Ritter. Ritter and Marx had a head-start on their relationship having played together prior to college. It was cool catching for her because we would go an entire game and she would never shake off a pitch because she agreed with all of them, Marx shared. She wasnt a pitcher and I was the catcher--we had a good partnership and worked as a unit.
Now Ritter turns her attention to the World Cup of Softball where she is part of the most dominating pitching staff in international softball. When asked if she felt pressure as part of such a competitive rotation she replied, My thing right now is to control what I can control. Not be so worried what the team thinks or what the coaches think or what all the fans are hoping. My goal is to shut them down.
Ritter hasnt avoided the rookie pranks entirely. Laura Berg, the team prankster, slapped her on the shoulder and asked how her workout went. Thinking Berg was genuinely interested in how she was doing, Ritter later found out that Berg was more interested in putting a luggage tag on her back.
In the end, Ritter is here to get her job done and is happy and honored to be doing it. One of the great things about this team is that while there are rookies and veterans, theres not necessarily a big difference between them. Everyone on this team deserves to be here.