U.S. wins Pan Am Games softball gold

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- It was an entirely new softball team. It was the same old golden result.

With a revamped team filled with rookies at the Pan American Games, the United States beat Canada 11-1 in four innings Sunday to win the country's sixth straight softball gold and eighth overall.

"This is very important to us as players and for the new program," said Taylor Hoagland, who came in as a pinch runner. "A lot of people wrote us off because we are without a lot of the veterans that we are used to having, but you know what, we are making a name for ourselves, for this new generation."

The gold was one of nine for the Americans on Day 9 of the Pan Americans Games, including two from water skier Regina Jaquess. In the medals tables, the United leads with 57 gold and 156 overall.

The softball team played its first game last Monday, beating Venezuela 10-0 in a mercy-rule victory. It was the fist of nine straight wins -- only of two of which went the distance.

Overall, the Americans outscored their opponents 78-8.

"It's hard to beat a team that puts up 10 runs on the board, which is what happened the most nights we were out there," U.S. third baseman Stacy May-Johnson said. "A lot of our hitters were hot this week."

In the gold medal game, the Americans scored four runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth. Second baseman Lauren Gibson scored three runs and had two hits, including a first-inning home run.

"Maybe we don't have the best 17 players, but I know that we've got the best 17 who can make up a great team," U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said. "We had to find the right mix and I feel like we've done a good job."

The United States has won every Pan American Games gold medal except one, losing to Canada in the 1983 final in Caracas, Venezuela.

Since softball was added to the program in 1979, the U.S. is 87-3.

But the program took a hard hit in funding after the sport was dropped from the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, and the team had to be nearly entirely revamped after the Olympic players either retired or joined professional leagues.

The Pan Am Games currently is the only multi-sport event in which the U.S. team participates, and the 2011 roster was the youngest ever at the games.

"There were a lot of questions surrounding this team, especially back in the States, about whether this team could continue the tradition that U.S. softball has winning gold medals and being champions," said May-Johnson, the team's oldest player at 27. "I think that this kind of proves that the talent runs very deep in our country and that we can still be competitive and still come away with gold medals. I think that puts a lot of critics to rest."

The American water skiers were almost as dominant, winning six of the nine gold medals. And Jaquess led the way with three gold and one bronze.

A day after winning the overall title, the 27-year-old Floridian won the slalom and jump events. She was third in the tricks competition.

"I am totally happy that I got bronze, but at the same time you're itching for the gold and I wanted to get the sweep," Jaquess said. "I looked at big picture when I should have just concentrated on single event."

American teammates Jonathan Travers and Freddy Krueger also earned gold. Travers won the slalom and Kreuger claimed the title in jumps.

"I was banged up before I came and was nervous about even coming," krueger said. "Winning the gold, period, is exciting."

The other American golds came from the equestrian riders in the team event competition, freestyle wrestlers Jake Herbert and Tervel Dlagnev, and Sarah Haskins in the women's triathlon.

"The swim was probably the hardest part. It was really, really hot in there," said Haskins, who took silver four years ago in Rio de Janeiro. "The bike and run were actually on the cooler side compared to what I was expecting, so that was nice."