USA SOFTBALL

Finch exits stage with world title

Softball icon ends USA career, plays first base in victory
2010-07-27T00:00:00Z 2010-07-27T00:12:22Z Finch exits stage with world titleThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 27, 2010 12:00 am  • 

OKLAHOMA CITY - Jennie Finch closed her international softball career as a champion.

Caitlin Lowe - a former UA All-American like Finch - had a two-run triple as the United States beat Japan 5-1 Monday night to win its fourth straight World Cup of Softball title in Finch's final game in red, white and blue.

Finch was pulled from her first base position with two outs in the seventh inning and received a standing ovation as she headed into the dugout, stopping to wave to the crowd.

At 29, Finch is giving up softball so she can spend more time with her family despite still being able to play at the highest level.

She didn't allow a run in 18 2/3 innings at the World Cup - including a 3-0 victory over the USA Futures squad earlier Monday - but she wasn't much of a factor in her final game, going 0 for 3.

Finch's teammates mobbed around her in a group hug after the final out.

"My career has been way more than I possibly ever could have dreamt of or imagined," she said. "I've been so incredibly blessed by this game, the people of this game. I can't say enough. I'm so grateful."

A two-time Olympian and 2004 gold medalist, Finch developed into the most recognizable player in the sport after a standout career at Arizona that included the 2001 Women's College World Series title and an NCAA record 60 straight victories.

She went on to become a pop-culture icon, striking out big-league hitters on "This Week in Baseball" and making appearances on reality TV and late-night talk shows. At a time when the sport spread around the world with the help of the Olympics, Finch was known wherever the U.S. team went.

"I think sometimes you measure a person's success not on their accomplishments as much as how many lives they've touched," said Mike Candrea, her coach at Arizona and through two Olympics. "Jennie has transformed this sport, touched millions of young kids in many different ways - whether it's fashion, whether it's the way she plays the game - but through it all she's been very humble."

"She's become the face of this sport, and not many people could do that," he added. "It's hard to do."

Finch high-fived a group of fans that gathered at the gate from the practice area to the main field and then posed for a handful of pictures as she worked her way down the stairs to the diamond. After checking into the dugout, she paused again to smile for fans who had gathered to snap more photos.

"I wanted us to get the last out and I wanted to play the last out, so I was like, 'Man, they took me out of the last out. I wish I could have been out there,' " Finch said. "I just wanted to close the deal and secure the World Cup back in the U.S."

Finch's No. 27 was printed on first base, and her teammates wore headbands similar to the red, glittery one that Finch dons.

She was presented the pitching rubber and a game ball from her three-hit shutout earlier Monday against the USA Futures squad.

Finch struck out 12 in her final start and allowed only three singles - including two that didn't make it out of the infield. At the World Cup, she threw two shutouts and had a scoreless appearance in relief.

She will continue playing with the Chicago Bandits until the National Pro Fastpitch season ends next month.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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