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Japan blanks Canada in softball

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Yukiko Ueno pitched three-hit ball over six shutout innings as Japan blanked Canada 6-0 in its final preliminary round game of the Beijing Olympic softball tournament on Monday.

Rei Nishiyama hit a two-run single in the second inning to ignite the offense and Japan, which had already booked a spot in the semifinals and guaranteed itself a medal as the second-place team, went on to finish the round-robin stage with a 6-1 record.

Japan will meet the U.S. in Wednesday’s semis. Australia has also advanced in third place.

Japan put runners at second and third with two outs after a leadoff walk and an error in the second, and Nishiyama singled into the gap in left after Canada intentionally walked Ayumi Karino to load the bases, making it 2-0 at Fengtai Softball Field.

Yukiyo Mine had a run-scoring double and Motoko Fujimoto chipped in with an RBI single in third to extend the lead. Megu Hirose and Fujimoto added RBI singles in the sixth.

The top two in the preliminaries secure medals and face each other in a semifinal under softball’s unusual playoff system. The loser gets another chance at the gold medal game if it can beat the winner of the other semifinal between the third- and fourth-placed teams.

Japan has won a silver and a bronze with one finish in fourth since softball became an official medal sport in the Olympic program in Atlanta in 1996. Softball will be dropped from the 2012 London Games along with baseball.