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U.S. wins gold in softball

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- They are America's newest golden girls -- powerful and just a shade from perfection.

The U.S. softball team won its third straight gold medal with an unprecedented and nearly unblemished romp through the Olympics, capped by a 5-1 victory today over an Australian team, that, like the rest of softball's elite, never had a chance.

The Americans zeroed in on a gold medal, and were four outs from a tournament-long shutout before the Aussies scored a run -- the first given up by the U.S. pitching staff in 54 2-3 innings.

One minor flaw on an otherwise perfect run on the game's grandest diamond.

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Lisa Fernandez pitched a four-hitter and Crystl Bustos homered twice in the Americans' best all-around game of the tournament. Under the burning Greek sun and in swirling wind, the U.S. team pounded three home runs off Aussie ace Tanya Harding.

They moved over runners. They played stingy defense. They did everything right while thrilling 5,000 fans unlikely ever to see a team as good as this red-white-blue Dream Team of power and speed.

These Yankees, minus the payroll and pinstripes, were simply awesome.

Bustos homered twice off Harding, and the United States completed a three-game sweep of the silver medal-winning Aussies, the only team in the same class as the Americans in these games.

The United States outscored Australia 20-1 in the three-game sweep and finished the nine-game tournament by outscoring the field 51-1.

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