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Into the medal round

U.S. advances with 6-0 win over Italy

Posted: Saturday September 23, 2000 12:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday November 08, 2000 3:19 PM

  Lisa Fernandez The Americans are making an effort to save ace Lisa Fernandez for the medal round. Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport

BLACKTOWN, Australia ( -- Lisa Fernandez homered and pitched the United States to a 6-0 victory over Italy. The win put the Americans into the Olympic softball medal round.

The favorites to win the gold medal, the U.S. team had lost three consecutive games. But the Americans avoided elimination by pulling out wins in the last two playoff games. They will play China on Monday.

Fernandez recorded each of the first six outs on strikeouts, allowing one hit. After the United States (4-3) took a 4-0 lead in the top of the third, Christa Williams relieved Fernandez so the American ace could rest for the playoffs.

Williams pitched five perfect innings in relief, striking out the side in the seventh to end the game.

The defending Olympic champions arrived in Sydney with a 10-game winning streak, extending it to 112 before their unprecedented losing string. To repeat as gold medalists, they now have to beat the three teams that beat them in the round-robin -- China, Japan and Australia.

Coach Ralph Raymond juggled his lineup for the game against Italy (2-5), wich needed to win to make the medal round.

He used the designated hitter for left-fielder Christie Ambrosi and had Fernandez bat for herself, which he doesn't usually do when she's pitching, so that she could try to work out of a 1-for-22 slump. It would also allow her to return in relief if the Americans faltered late.

After scoring a run in the second without a hit, the Americans broke it open when Laura Berg reached on an error and Fernandez followed with a long homer to center field.

Crystl Bustos doubled and scored to make it 4-0. Sheila Douty doubled as the Americans scored twice to make it 6-0 in the sixth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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