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Win puts U.S. in gold game

Published Sep. 16, 2005

This time, pitcher Lisa Fernandez's teammates come through and the United States softball team beat China 1-0 in 10 innings Monday to move into the gold-medal game.

Sheila Cornell hit a one-out, bases-loaded single and the Americans had their second straight thrilling victory over the Chinese.

Just three days ago, Fernandez's bid for a perfect game ended when Australia's first hit, a two-out, two-run homer by Joanne Brown, gave the Aussies a 2-1, 10-inning win, the United States' first loss in the Olympics and second in 111 games.

The Chinese failed to score, even when allowed, by the rules, to start the extra inning with a runner on second base.

In the bottom of the inning, Cornell, who two nights earlier hit the winning homer off Wang, worked the count to 3-1 before singling up the middle to score Dot Richardson.

Richardson went to second to start the inning. Julie Smith took a pitch in the hip to place runners at first and second. Dionna Harris then grounded to shortstop Liu Xuqing, who tried to throw out Richardson taking third but plucked her squarely in the back.

"I knew she was going to come after me, so I wanted to make sure I didn't slide," Richardson said. "It was a nice feeling when I got hit."

The Americans had three shots at victory from there, and Cornell delivered after Kim Maher struck out.

"You're not looking to hit it out of the ballpark in that situation," said Cornell, who has hit three home runs in the Games. "You only need one run. She got behind in the count, and she had to be able to bring it in."

Cornell took two steps, broke into a grin and raised both arms. Richardson scored, then joined her teammates in a race to first base, where they mobbed Cornell.

Fernandez did not allow a baserunner through six innings.

That's 15 innings of flawless pitching in regulation _ 45 batters without a hit, walk, hit batter or U.S. fielding error.

After Zhang Chunfang broke up the no-hitter in the seventh by poking an off-speed pitch just inside the rightfield line for a single, Fernandez allowed two more hits. Zhang reached third but was stuck there as Tao Hua popped weakly to third for the third out.

"If we had to go another 10 innings," said U.S. coach Ralph Raymond, "I'm sure she (Fernandez) would have been right in there doing it."

The teams could play for the gold medal today. Australia played Japan in Monday night's late game. The winner will play China in today's first game, with the winner of that game facing the United States in the gold-medal game.