SOFTBALL U.S. shutout streak extended in 4-0 win



XATHENS, Greece -- The zeros are beginning to line up like Olympic rings for the U.S. softball team.
Lori Harrigan allowed only a first-inning bunt single and Crystl Bustos homered today as the Americans posted their fourth straight shutout of the games, 4-0 over China.
Harrigan, a security supervisor at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas when she's not whipping fastballs past hitters, struck out eight as the U.S. (4-0) coasted past another of the tournament's medal contenders.
"She was awesome," said catcher Jenny Topping, who added two hits. "She had her full arsenal."
Lovieanne Jung had two RBIs and Leah O'Brien-Amico drove in a run as the Americans ran their winning streak to 74 games and their international record against China (2-2) to 10-1. The U.S. has outscored its opponents 24-0 in the preliminary round of the Olympic tournament.
Unlike their thrilling win Monday against Japan, this one was easy for the Americans, who have blanked Italy, Australia, Japan and now China in succession. Since softball joined the Olympics in 1996, the United States has recorded 14 shutouts in 23 games.
Harrigan, a three-time Olympian, only allowed two baserunners in the second straight dominant performance by a U.S. pitcher. On Monday, Cat Osterman pitched a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts as the Americans beat Japan 3-0 in eight innings.
Harrigan doesn't get the publicity of teammates Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez or even Osterman. But the left-hander has been one of the mainstays for the U.S. team for more than a decade.
"She's the one that keeps us together," Finch said. "Lori's our team mom. If your shirt is not tucked in, she'll tell you about it. She's a fighter, too. No one is tougher than Lori."
China was one of three teams to beat the U.S. during round-robin play four years ago in Sydney, winning 2-0 in 14 innings. However, the Americans avenged that setback -- and the two others -- with a 3-0 victory in 10 innings in the semifinals on their way to a second straight gold medal.
Associated Press

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