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.
Wonder how Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman seem to defy physics with their pitches? Heres a quick guide to the most commonly thrown pitches. Expect to see these pitches thrown by the best pitchers in the game at the World Cup of Softball.
Fastball The fastball is the foundation pitch. Its simplethrow it hard. Top softball pitchers throw their fastball around 70 miles per hour. That is roughly equivalent to a 100 mile per hour fastball in baseball. The idea is to throw a fastball with enough velocity to force the hitter into a late swing and cause them to foul it off or miss altogether. The grip maximizes wrist snap when the ball is released at the hip. Monica Abbott is a good example of someone who brings the heat with her fastball.
Riseball The riseball is unique to fastpitch softball and widely considered the most difficult pitch to hit. It starts out in the strike zone and breaks just before reaching the plateforcing the batter to pop up or miss it completely. Jennie Finch throws a dominant riseball.
Dropball The drop works the exact opposite of a riseball. This pitch initially looks attractive to the hitter only to drop out of the stikezone just before reaching the plate. If the batter does make contact, the dropball commonly results in a ground out. Look to national team newcomer Jennie Ritter to throw this pitch masterfully.
Curveball The curveball, as with most breaking pitches, is meant to have enough movement to cause the batter to chaseoften times well out of the strikezone. The curve moves away from the batter to the outside of the plate when thrown from a right-handed pitcher to a right-handed batter. This makes right-handed pull hitters especially susceptible to this pitch. Cat Osterman, a specialist at making batters chase her pitches out of the zone, has one of the nastiest curveballs around.
Change Up The change-up is a deceptive off-speed pitch that appears like a fastball but travels roughly 15 miles per hour slower. It is primarily used to keep the batter off-balance. The motion and mechanics as similar to the fastball. Alicia Hollowell has a very successful change-up that keeps hitters guessing.