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U.S. takes third softball gold

August 24, 2004 00:25 IST
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The United States softball team came into Athens on a simple mission -- take home their third straight gold medal or call the trip to the Olympics a failure.

With a 5-1 win over Australia in the gold medal game on Monday the Americans can declare "mission accomplished."

The United States dominated the competition in Athens, rolling off nine straight wins and only allowing one run to be scored against them in all those games. It was the third straight gold for the Americans, who have won 79 straight games in international competition.

"We came over here with gold medals on our minds and we weren't going to go home with anything else," said U.S. pitcher Cat Osterman, who picked up two wins in Olympic play.

 Australia took silver and Japan received the bronze medal.

The gold medal game against Australia was a typical one for the red, white and blue U.S. softball machine.

The U.S. jumped out to an early lead and slammed the door with masterful pitching.

Crystl Bustos belted a two-run homer in the first to put the United States on the board and veteran Lisa Fernandez held the Aussies at bay with a superb pitching performance.

Bustos then struck another monstrous home run in her next at bat, unleashing a bomb deep over the left field fence that dropped jaws among the fans and heads for the dejected Aussies on the field.

The United States ran the bases with a furore, they belted Aussie pitching early and often, and squashed any possible rally with nearly air-tight defence.

"There are no flaws on that team," said Simon Roskvist, the Australian head coach.

The win was also an emotional one for the Americans.

Sue Candrea, the wife of American head coach Mike Candrea, died suddenly about a month before the Olympics.

All of the U.S. players marked their uniforms with a "SC" to remember the woman who toured with them as they prepared for Athens, but died at the feet of her husband.

 "We just wanted nothing more to do this and have Sue be a part of it," said U.S. player Leah Amico, who left the field in tears as she thought about how much the gold medal would have meant to the woman the U.S. players called their "angel in the outfield."

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