ATHENS, Greece -- Lisa Fernandez won an Olympic softball
game that looked more like a California reunion.
Fernandez, one of 12 Californians on the U.S. team, pitched a
one-hitter as the two-time defending gold medalists made it six
shutouts in six games with a shortened 7-0 victory Thursday over a
Greek team with a distinct American flavor.
With 11 Californians now adopted "Hellas,'' Greece (2-4) did
all it could to hang with the U.S. (6-0). But as they've done
against their first five opponents, the Americans wore down the Greeks, winning for the fourth time in the tournament in five innings
because they were too far ahead.
Fernandez hit an RBI single in the third inning for the only run
she would need. Leah O'Brien-Amico and Jessica Mendoza added two
RBIs apiece as the Americans again demonstrated their superiority
in every aspect of the game.
The 33-year-old Fernandez, a three-time Olympian, only allowed
two runners to reach base. She didn't give up her first hit until
the fifth when Greece infielder Ginny Georgantas, a former South
Florida standout, lined a single to left.
Georgantas pumped her fist as she ran to first and her teammates
-- 13 of the 15 American-born -- celebrated in the dugout as if they
had just pulled off a huge upset. Many of those girls grew up
idolizing Fernandez, considered the finest player in the world and
the undisputed leader of the U.S. team.
"Lisa is USA softball,'' first-time Olympian Jennie Finch said
a day earlier. "She's our inspiration.''
Another one of the teams in the tournament better find some
inspiration -- quick. Only a Friday matchup against Taiwan remains
in the way of the United States completing the preliminary round
How dominant are the Americans? They've now won 76 straight
games, pitched five straight one-hitters, outscored the field 38-0
and allowed just two runners to get to third base.
It's a far cry from four years ago in Sydney when the U.S. team
had its 112-game winning streak stopped by Japan, lost three
straight preliminary-round games and made the medal round as the
No. 4 team.
The Americans are a solid No. 1 so far.
For two innings, Greece held its own, keeping the game
scoreless, a victory of sorts after the U.S. team's demolition of
Italy, Australia and Canada.
With all the Californians on the field, it gave old friends a
chance to catch up old times. In some cases, moms and dads of the
U.S. team's players and those of the American-flavored Greeks sat
side-by-side, waving their respective country's flags while
watching their daughters play ball.
It was still 1-0 until the fourth when the United States scored
three runs, two on O'Brien-Amico's two-run single. Greece did stop
the Americans from adding another run in the fourth when catcher
Stacey Farnworth held onto the ball following a collision at the
plate by Mendoza, who barreled into her.