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American dreams come true

U.S. shortstop Dot Richardson has dreamed about softball in the Olympics. In her sleep, she's the first batter and hammers the first pitch out of the park for the first Olympic home run.

Richardson didn't do that Sunday. But she came close, hitting a home run in her third at-bat. She slammed the first pitch of the sixth inning over the centerfield fence to lead the Americans to a 10-0 rout of Puerto Rico in softball's debut in the Olympic Games.

Richardson, the oldest player on the U.S. team at 34, was 2-for-4 and left an indelible mark on the game and an indelible impression on the 8,462 partisan fans at Golden Park:

Not only was her home run the first in Olympic softball history, she also had the first hit _ a single to lead off the game _ and scored the first run as well.

Richardson's pace around the bases picked up as she watched the home run get scooped up in the outfield bleachers, and she clenched both fists and leaped in celebration.

"I had a lot of dreams about hitting that first homer, though it was supposed to be on the first pitch of the first at-bat," Richardson said. "I was looking for my parents in the stands as I came around, because they knew what I had dreamed and talked so much about.

"I'm feeling things I've never felt before. You can't ask for more than the Olympics _ and we're living it now."

Michele Granger threw the first pitch for a strike and threw a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts.

Lisa Fernandez earned the first RBI with the hit that scored Richardson, an orthopedic surgeon from Orlando.

At the end, an impassioned sellout crowd of 8,500 stood to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" and the American women stayed to sign autographs beside their dugout.

Obviously, they didn't want the moment to end.

"That's because this has been in waiting for 10 to 15 years, even more," Fernandez said of softball's long, often-frustrating battle to become part of the Olympics. "But it was great to win our first game in that kind of fashion, 10-0."

CANADA 2, TAIPEI 1: It took nearly three hours, 10 innings, a fielding blunder in the bottom of the seventh and a free baserunner per international tie-breaking rules, but Canada avoided an upset in its debut.

The score was tied at 1 after nine innings. Starting with the 10th inning, each team began its half of the inning with a baserunner at second. Colleen Thorburn was Canada's free runner. After two outs, she advanced to third on Carmelina Vairo's infield single.

Christine Parris-Washington slashed a single into leftfield to bring home Thorburn with the winning run. Leftfielder Chien Chen Ju, realizing she had no chance of throwing out Thorburn, flipped the ball back to the infield as the Canadian team mobbed Thorburn at home plate.

It was Parris-Washington's only hit of the game in five at-bats.

The single came off Tu Hui-Ping, who pitched 7 innings in relief of starter Tu Hui-Mei.

CHINA 6, AUSTRALIA 0: China, the only country to defeat the United States in softball the past 10 years, re-emerged as the USA's top threat.

China hit two home runs to account for five of its six runs. Pitcher Wang Lihong struck out 10 and allowed only two hits.

Wang allowed only three baserunners _ singles by Tanya Harding and Joanne Brown and a walk to Joyce Lester. Wang had a shoulder injury last year and did not make the Superball Classic, when China ended USA's 106-game winning streak.

China took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Zhang Chun Fang was hit by a pitch and two outs later scored on Wang Ying's home run. China added a run in the fourth when Liu Xuqing walked and scored on Tao Hua's double.

Wei Qiang broke the game open with a three-run homer in the seventh.

CANADA 2, TAIPEI 1: It took nearly three hours, 10 innings, a fielding blunder in the bottom of the seventh and a free baserunner per international tie-breaking rules, but Canada avoided an upset in its debut.

The score was tied at 1 after nine innings. Starting with the 10th inning, each team began its half of the inning with a baserunner at second. Colleen Thorburn was Canada's free runner. After two outs, she advanced to third on Carmelina Vairo's infield single.

Christine Parris-Washington slashed a single into leftfield to bring home Thorburn with the winning run.

Japan defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in the evening session.

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