For the second time in four games at the World Cup of Softball, the United States defeated its opponent in five innings with an 9-0 victory against Canada on Saturday.
The Americans stand alone atop the six-team standings as the only undefeated team left in the tournament and have clinched a berth in the World Cup championship game at 8 p.m. Monday.
Team USA's power at the plate was too much for Canada (0-3). Valerie Arioto's three-run home run in the first inning helped spark the U.S. offense.
She's been a constant source of production for the U.S. during the World Cup.
“Her eyes are steady,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said of Arioto. “If your eyes are steady and you're behind the ball with her type of power, it can get scary. And right now she's scary.”
Two of Arioto's three home runs in the tournament left ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Saturday. But her favorite of her three home runs?
“All of them,” Arioto said. “A home run is always a good time.”
Eriksen was disappointed with the Team USA's lack of energy Friday night and said so to his players. Arioto thought his message came through to them, and they set about proving it.
“We came out today and wanted to show what we're about,” she said. “This is what we wanted.”
Eriksen agreed with one of his team's best hitters in the tournament. He received the response he was looking for and wants Team USA (4-0) to carry its energy into its game against Brazil at noon Sunday.
“We actually brought pretty good focus to the field,” he said.
Arioto hit her second home run in the sixth inning of Team USA's first game of its Saturday doubleheader to secure a 2-1 victory against the Netherlands. The Dutch were unbeaten in the tournament before facing the U.S.
She ended Saturday a combined 3-for-6 at the plate with two home runs and five RBIs.
“She's in the zone right now, and everything's looking pretty big so let's keep going in that direction,” Eriksen said.
Even when she didn't hit the ball out of the yard, Arioto made contact. She has struck out only once in the Americans' last three games.
Arioto attributes her batting in the tournament to having patience at the plate.
“I'm looking for a certain pitch, and I've gotten it so far,” Arioto said.
OU's Keilani Ricketts, who earned her first start and win in the World Cup, believes Arioto has done a good job of identifying pitches to hit all weekend.
“Valerie is definitely seeing the ball,” Ricketts said. “If I was the other pitcher, I wouldn't want to be throwing to her.”