INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 18 -- The Canadian hitter lifted a soft foul ball about 50 feet down the first base line, and almost the entire park stood to see. Some of the Canadian players jumped to the top step of the dugout. The batter, Sandi Leroux, looked almost depressed when the ball fell 10 feet foul. Strike two.

But it was progress. Before that, U.S. softball pitcher Michele Granger had struck out 10 of 12 Canadian batters. A foul tip for Team Canada was a moral victory. A foul ball forward felt like a hit. When Leroux flied out to right field on the next pitch, people in the stands looked at each other as if they'd seen a UFO. You don't hit Michele Granger. At least, not often.

In women's softball, a game in which the bunt is often the best offensive weapon, few good pitchers give up more than five hits per game. And the U.S. team, which has advanced to the gold medal game at the Pan American Games, has two other pitchers who have yet to allow a run -- Ella Vilche and Rhonda Wheatley. But Granger is the closest thing to unhittable, probably in the entire world of women's fast-pitch softball.

Monday night against Canada, she allowed one single -- with two out in the final inning, it glanced off her glove. She struck out 15 of 28 batters, about her average. In this tournament, Granger has one no-hitter and three one-hitters, including tonight's 4-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Granger is 17 years old, about six years younger than the average of her Pan Am teammates. Anyone who pretends to know anything about women's fast-pitch says she will only get better, perhaps even surpass the exploits of Joan Joyce, the National Softball Hall of Famer, who reportedly once struck out Ted Williams in an exhibition game.

Ghislaine Ethier, the Canadian coach, said after his team's 1-0 defeat, "I've seen the best in China and Japan, and Granger has by far the best rise {the most important pitch in women's fast-pitch} and she can only get better."

The Americans are more cautious with praise for this youngest member of the team. U.S. infielder Dottie Richardson, playing in her third Pan American Games, said, "The best I've ever seen are Joan Joyce and Kathy Arendsen. I thought Michele was better last year. She's a star, but I'm not going to call her a superstar until seven or eight years from now. Then we'll see."

When someone asked, after the one-hit victory over Canada, whether she feels any pressure, Granger looked puzzled and said, "My philosophy is, 'Why kill yourself over it?' It's fun."

She said that her father Mike pushes her -- "just like a stage mother, you know?" -- but that she is in no way consumed by softball.

"I don't miss out on anything," she said. "I go to movies, to the beach, to dances. I was the junior class president last year {at Valencia High School in Placentia, Calif.}. I was in charge of the prom. A boy friend? Well, I'm working on that."

Her presence on a team of women in their early to late 20s might have presented a problem. But Granger is almost always deferential to the older players.

In the World Championships last year in New Zealand, Granger no-hit the hosts, threw a perfect game against Indonesia, and was called on with the bases loaded and nobody out late in the championship game against Canada.

Asked if she remembers what happened next, Granger giggles and said, "No."

She struck out two batters, got the third to pop up, and bailed out the U.S. team in its 2-1 victory.

It has been widely speculated that she throws nearly 100 mph, to which Granger said, "No way. I know there is no way possible that I throw 100 mph. Upper 70s, maybe as high as 80 on a good night."

Catcher Suzy Brazney says, "Michele throws the hardest of any of the pitchers around now. I'd guess about 70 or 75 most of the time."

Granger has four basic pitches, a rise ball, drop, curve change-up and the old-time blooper pitch. She uses the rise ball "90 percent of the time," Brazney says, and absolutely never shakes off her signs.

The rise ball is especially effective in women's fast-pitch because the pitcher's mound is only 40 feet from home plate. The underhand delivery starts from two or three inches above the dirt and winds up at a batter's eye level.

"I coach a high school team and we played against her twice," Brazney said. "The thing I told my players was that you can't take a full swing and hit it out of the park. That just isn't going to happen. I think we got one hit in one game, two in another. In high school she throws mostly one-hitters."

A lot of the success has to be attributed to Granger's father. He came up with several wacky devices to help her when she was a pre-teen. For example, to make sure she had the proper motion and didn't lean too far forward, he'd tie her to a tree with a rope while she pitched.

"When I didn't want to practice, he'd say, 'Yessssss, you do.' I love him. He doesn't catch me anymore, though, because I blew out his knee one day. I was supposed to throw a riser, I think, but instead I threw a drop."

Granger's ability to laugh at herself may take her a long way as the expectations and demands -- like interview requests -- mount and take up more of her time. Twice Monday night, a pitch simply slipped out of her hands and rolled to the plate. One opponent here actually took a swing at a roller and struck out.

This time, Granger threw back her head and laughed, which she has done often.

"Sometimes, they get a little mad when I laugh," she said. "But I think you have to have fun. You have to laugh. That's just the way I am."