OKLAHOMA CITY The United States was beaten in an international softball game for the first time since 2002, losing 2-1 to Canada in the inaugural World Cup of Softball on Thursday night.
The U.S., which has won the gold medal in three straight Olympics, last lost an international game on July 4, 2002, 6-1 to Japan at the U.S. Cup.
According to tournament officials, it was only the third time that a Canadian team had beaten a U.S. team. The Canadians beat the Americans at the 1983 Pan Am Games and in qualifying for the 1997 Pan Am Games.
Some of the United States' biggest stars weren't in the lineup. U.S. coach Mike Candrea started Alicia Hollowell, a newcomer to the team, instead of aces Jennie Finch or Cat Osterman, against a Canadian team that finished behind the U.S. and other World Cup participants Australia, Japan and China in Athens.
Osterman was scheduled to start Friday against 2004 silver medalist Australia, and Finch was to pitch Saturday against 2004 bronze medalist Japan. Finch pitched two innings of scoreless relief against Canada.
''We've got a target on our back, and they know that,'' Candrea said. ''I asked them how many people really had the butterflies before this game you know, the big-game feeling and probably not many.''
In Thursday's other game, China beat Japan 5-4.
Sheena Lawrick drove in both of Canada's runs with singles in the first and third innings, and 18-year-old Danielle Lawrie yielded only five hits to a U.S. team that outscored opponents 51-1 on its way to the gold medal in Athens. Lawrick played at Nebraska, and Lawrie (1-0) will play at Washington next season.
The U.S. loss came less than a week after the International Olympic Committee voted to eliminate softball from the 2012 London Games because it lacked global appeal. The IOC also eliminated baseball.
Canadian coach Lori Sippel said she hoped the IOC voters saw a tape of the game.
''There are 100-something countries that have the sport, but the Olympics is about the elite playing, and tonight we got a taste of what that is,'' Sippel said. ''I don't see why all 120 countries have to play it when you're playing it at the highest level. If maybe eight to 12 are playing it at the most high level, then why shouldn't they have a shot?
''I think they were hasty in their decision, and I didn't get a vote.''
The U.S. women, who won all three gold medals since softball joined the Olympics, at the 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games, can still come back to win the round-robin tournament, which runs through Monday.
Candrea said members of the team traveled to the tournament from different places and had not practiced together. But, he wasn't making excuses.
''It's a good lesson for us,'' Candrea said. ''No matter who you are and what uniform you have on, you have to be prepared to play. If you don't, good things will happen for other teams.''
China 5, Japan 4
Sun Li's two-out RBI single capped a four-run bottom of the seventh for China. Li Chunxia tripled to lead off the inning and scored on Zhou Yi's single. One out later, Xin Minhong tied the game with a home run to center field.
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