July 27 (UPI) — Team USA’s dominant run through Olympic softball competition came to an end at the worst possible time Tuesday, with host Japan shutting out the Americans 2-0 in the gold medal game in Yokohama, Japan.
The top-ranked Americans totaled just three hits in the loss. Pitcher Yukiko Ueno allowed two hits over six shutout innings for No. 2 Japan.
The setback denied Team USA the chance to avenge its loss to Japan in the 2008 gold medal game, the last time softball was a sport at the Summer Games. Ace pitchers Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott were among the players on the 2008 runner-up team.
“Sometimes it’s just not your day,” Osterman told NBC in a postgame interview. “Unfortunately, it’s not been our day twice now.
“If you told me this was the ending and I had to redo it, I would choose to do this all over again because this team has heart and fight.”
Earlier Tuesday, Canada beat Mexico 3-2 to win the bronze medal in softball.
Janie Reed got Team USA off to a strong start at the plate. The left fielder tripled in the Americans’ second at-bat, but Team USA couldn’t get her in from third base.
The Americans did not record another hit until the bottom of the sixth.
Japan broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth. Designated player Yamata Fujita led off the frame with a single to center field. Japan followed with a sacrifice bunt and a ground out to move Fujita to third base.
Shortstop Mana Atsumi plated Fujita with an RBI single in the fifth at-bat of the inning to give Japan a 1-0 lead. Ueno retired the Americans in order in the bottom of the fourth.
Fujita drove in third baseman Yu Yamamoto with an RBI single in the top of the fifth for the final run of the game. Japan’s offense threatened again in the top of the sixth, but Team USA escaped the half-inning unscathed.
Team USA designated player Michelle Moultrie then led off the bottom of the sixth with single to left field. She advanced to second base on a Reed single two at-bats later. Right fielder Amanda Chidester then lined out to the shortstop for the final out of the inning.
Ueno re-entered the game to pitch in the seventh. She retired Team USA first baseman Valerie Arioto, second baseman Ali Aguilar and shortstop Delaney Spaulding in order to end the game.
Reed went 2 for 3 in the loss. Osterman allowed two hits and issued one walk in two innings. Fellow pitcher Ally Carda allowed three hits and two runs in 2 2/3 innings. Abbott allowed three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Fujita went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run score for Japan. Atsumi wenet 1 for 1 with an RBI and a walk in the victory.
Team USA had a perfect 5-0 record in round-robin play in the six-team tournament. It ended the first round with a 2-1 win over Japan (4-1) on Monday in Yokohama.
Softball and baseball, which also returned to the Olympic sports lineup for the first time since 2008, are not expected to be a part of the 2024 Summer Games program.
France goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni can’t stop a goal from Mexico forward Uriel Antuna (not seen) in a Men’s Group A soccer match during the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games on July 22. Photo by Bob Strong/UPI |