• Kyodo

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The Japan women’s national softball team defeated the United States 3-0 on Friday in the first game of a three-game exhibition series.

Natsuko Suga belted a two-run homer in the first inning to give Japan the lead.

Yukari Hamamura celebrated her 22nd birthday with a strong start on the mound, working three innings and striking out five. She allowed two hits and walked one batters.

Relievers Yamato Fujita and Yukiko Ueno kept the visitors off the scoreboard over the next four innings.

Japan added an insurance run in the sixth.

“The United States can make our one mistake into a home run, but we tried to not make that mistake in a typical Japanese manner,” Utsugi said. “I was not worrying about anything with the three pitchers today.”

Ueno said, “I want to see the sparkle of the Beijing Games back in the team.”

The U.S. won the gold medal at the first three Olympics to include softball, starting with the Atlanta Games in 1996, before Japan defeated the United States in the 2008 Beijing Games final.

Softball was absent from the previous two games but was reinstated by the International Olympic Committee for 2020 along with men’s baseball.

The series’ first two games are being played at Shellcom Sendai Stadium. The action will move to Yokohama Stadium, the main venue for the sport making a comeback to the Olympics, for the final game on Sunday.

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