ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Lisa Fernandez and the U.S. softball team showed no mercy again. Fernandez allowed one hit and the Americans dominated their old
Olympic nemesis Australia, blowing out the two-time bronze medalists 10-0 Sunday in a game called after five innings because the Aussies were too far
International rules state a game ends whenever a team trails by seven runs or more after five innings the so-called slaughter rule.
This one certainly qualified.
After an eight-run fourth inning, all Fernandez had to do was get three outs in the fifth to finish off Australia (1-1), the only team to beat the
United States twice in Olympic competition. Both times, Fernandez was the loser. Stacey Nuveman hit a three-run homer off Melanie Roche to cap the
Americans big fourth-inning. Her shot to center sent the U.S. bench into a frenzy and put a shiver through the rest of the eight-team field.
The United States (2-0), seeking its third straight gold medal, has won its first two games in Greece by a combined 17-0 score with both ending via
the mercy rule. The Americans beat Italy on Saturday. Fernandez, considered the world's finest all-around player, has had to endure the lowest points
in her athletic career against the Aussies in the Olympics. They occurred on two pitches she has always wanted back.
In the 1996 Games, she took a perfect game into the 10th before losing 2-1 on a walk-off home run. Then, four years ago at Sydney, Fernandez struck
out a record 25 batters before she gave up a home run to Peta Edebone in the 13th and lost 2-1. But in the first inning Sunday, Fernandez gave herself
all the run support she needed by hitting a two-run double.
Leading off against Brooke Wilkins, Natasha Watley walked and went to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Crystl Bustos walked and Watley swiped
third, avoiding Natalie Titcume's late tag. Fernandez, one of the game's best hitters, then went the opposite way to right and the ball carried over
Sandra Allen's head as both runners scored.
Not wanting to tip his hand until the last minute, U.S. coach Mike Candrea listed first-time Olympian Cat Osterman as his starting pitcher and
Fernandez as the Americans designated player. But when he turned it in his lineup card to umpires before the game, Fernandez was the one going to the
As if there was any doubt.
Fernandez has been in the circle for virtually every big game for the United States in the last decade. Shortly after her defense let Fernandez down
in the third inning with one error and a dropped foul pop, U.S. second baseman Lovieanne Jung recovered by throwing out Natalie Ward at home. Catcher
Nuveman made a nice play by blocking the plate.
Australia's only hit off Fernandez shouldn't have counted. Edebone grounded to short in the second, but the third-base umpire ruled it was a foul
ball, saying it went off her foot first. Given a second chance, Edebone singled to right. The Americans pounded Roche in the fourth, with Leah
O'Brien-Amico picking up a two-run single, Bustos driving in a run and Nuveman ending any thoughts of an Australian comeback, blasting her homer
through a stiff wind.
[Edited on 15/8/04 by TRD]