Japan beats US to win gold at Softball World Cup

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

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Team Japan also took gold at the Youth Softball World Cup. (Photo from Softball Japan)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Yuki Hayashi had two hits from four at bats with three RBIs as Japan beat the United States 6-3 on July 14 to win the gold medal in the eighth World Cup of Softball.

Yuka Ichiguchi tripled and drove in two runs for Japan, which beat the U.S. for the second time in as many days and extended its winning streak over the Americans to three games.

Japan also beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game of last year’s World Championships.

Through an interpreter, Japan coach Reika Utsagi said her team was young and didn’t feel much pressure to win.

“Even though we knew they would be another pitcher today, our strategy was the same,” Utsagi said. “It was to put the bat on the ball and make something happen, both yesterday and today. That’s what I think we did very well.”

The six runs surrendered by the U.S. matched the second-most it had ever allowed in a major international tournament. Japan beat the U.S. 7-4 on Saturday to set that record.

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The win marks the second year in a row Japan has beaten the U.S. (Photo courtesy the ASA.)

The U.S. had won the last six World Cups since Japan took the inaugural event in 2005. That was also the last time the U.S. lost twice in the World Cup. The U.S. now is 42-6 all-time in the event.

“My message to the team was that they’re better right now,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said of Japan. “Right now, they are better. You saw the benefits of being able to train together for months and months and months.

You saw the deficiencies of Team USA, with the inability to train for months and months and have five days to get together.

Misato Kawano singled leading off in the first and scored on an infield single by Yukiyo Mine.

Michelle Moultrie walked and Lauren Gibson reached on an error in the bottom of the first and were in scoring position with one out, but Okamura struck out Amanda Chidester and coaxed a popup from Valerie Arioto to end the threat.

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Team Japan has been training together for months in preparation. (Photo courtesy the ASA.)

Japan blew the game open in the second against U.S. starter Jessica Moore (1-1). Natsuka Ono singled with one out and Nozomi Shimasaki followed with a bunt single. One out later, Moore intentionally walked Kawano to load the bases. Ichiguchi followed with a popup to short left field that hit the glove of the hard-charging Chidester but fell to the ground, allowing two runs to score.

Hayashi followed with a sharp single to right field and two more runs scored, making it 5-0.

In the bronze-medal game, Australia beat Canada 4-3 in eight innings.

Japan and the United States will next meet at the Canadian Open Fast Pitch International, which starts July 16. (end)

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