With one out left, Jennie Finch was taken out the game and the fans rose to their feet in applause for possibly the most well-known softball player of all time. Flashes filled the stadium as she entered the dugout for the United States national team for the final time.
“I wanted to get the last out; I wanted to play the last out,” Finch said. “I wish I could have been out there; I just wanted to close the deal and secure that World Cup for the U.S.”
She has played for the USA national team for a decade, winning an Olympic gold and silver medal and two World Championships with the team.
Finch went out on top as Team USA beat Japan 5-1 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in the World Cup of Softball championship.
Finch went 0-for-3 in her last game in a United States uniform, and pitched a complete-game shutout earlier in the day against the USA Futures team.
“It's sad, but we just won the World Cup so we can't be too sad,” Finch said. “I'm just enjoying it and looking forward to this last time in my uniform.”
Picher Monica Abbott opened up the game with a 71-mph fastball and dominated Japan, striking out 10 batters and four consecutive during one stretch. Abbott gave up just four hits and one run on the evening.
Left fielder Jessica Mendoza put the U.S. on the board in the bottom of the first on a RBI single. Center fielder Caitlin Lowe drove in two more runs on a triple to right field in the bottom of the second to put Team USA up 3-0. Japan center fielder Eri Yamada drove in her team's only run on a single in the top of the third.
Finch, the former collegiate player of the year at Arizona, has elevated the sport of softball, which was evident by the number of young girls in the stands Monday wearing her jersey.
“I've been with her ten years,” said USA pitcher Cat Osterman. “I'm definitely going to miss her being a fellow pitcher.”
The entire USA softball team honored Finch by wearing headbands, something she has become known for since beginning her play with USA softball in 2001.
Mike Candrea, Finch's coach at Arizona, was in attendance at Monday's game.
“She really has been a great teammate for every player that has played with her and has meant a lot for the University of Arizona,” Candrea said.
Candrea, who also coached Finch when Team USA won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, recalled the first time he saw Finch in the weight room back in Tucson.
“I remember when she came to the weight room and we put a bar on her back to do lunges and her legs were shaking,” Candrea said. “We had to put a broom stick on her back; she's come a long way from that.”
She will now spend more time with her family, but will definitely be missed by softball fans worldwide.
“My career has been way more than I could have possibly ever dreamt of or imagined,” Finch said. “I've been so incredibly blessed by this game, the people of this game and these fans are just amazing and incredible.”
Futures takes third place