CHIBA – Japan missed a chance to go straight to the gold-medal game of the Women’s Softball World Championship on Saturday in a 4-3 extra-innings loss to the United States.
Rachel Garcia drove in the winning run in the eighth inning at Zozo Marine Stadium. Kelsey Stewart’s fifth-inning solo home run off starter Yamato Fujita tied the game.
“My teammates scored first, so I wanted to pull myself together until the very end,” Fujita said. “I was able to throw at my own rhythm today, so I hope I can keep that up and contribute to the team tomorrow.”
The loss in the first semifinal sends the United States into Sunday’s gold-medal game against the winner of Sunday’s bronze-medal match between Canada and Japan.
Against lefty ace Monica Abbott, who entered the game having allowed two runs in 22 innings, Japan took the lead on Eri Yamada’s leadoff single and Yu Yamamoto’s two-out home run.
Japan was denied a run in the second on a two-out Yamada single with runners on first and second. The U.S. catcher blocked the plate without the ball. Misato Kawano was forced to go around the catcher, who then received the late throw and applied the tag. Although Japan’s coaching staff argued for a safe call on obstruction, the umpire would not hear it.
Abbot was yanked in the third after Japan opened the inning with a single and a double. Japan finally got its third run when No. 2 hitter Yuka Ichiguchi scored on a groundout.
The Americans got on the board in the bottom of the third, when Aubree Munro led off with a home run. The United States then loaded the bases and Valerie Arioto scored to make it a 3-2 game.
Also Saturday, Canada routed Puerto Rico 10-4 and Australia 12-0 to book a spot in the second semifinal.
The winner of the tournament will be awarded an Olympic spot. If Japan wins, the second-place finisher will be granted the Olympic spot because Japan has an automatic berth as host.