Japan softball squad claims fifth straight Asian Games gold medal

Kyodo

Ace Yukiko Ueno and Japan won their fifth straight Asian Games gold medal on Friday with a 7-0 mercy-rule win over Taiwan.

“The Asian Games has increasingly become a place to show the strength of Japanese softball,” Ueno, who has played in the previous four Asian Games said. “We have had easier games this time by being able to score lots of runs.”

Japan, ranked second in the world after the United States, won all six matches in the preliminary round, scoring 60 runs while allowing just three.

“It is just one point along our road,” toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Ueno said.

Ueno got some much-needed early help when left fielder Saki Yamazaki robbed Taiwan of a leadoff double by making an over the shoulder catch while racing toward the fence.

Ueno then pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam before her teammates took control of the scoreboard in the home half of the first.

Cleanup hitter Yu Yamamoto drove in the game’s first run in Japan’s three-run first after Taiwan starter Tu Ya-ting walked Yuka Ichiguchi and Yamazaki.

After a wild pitch, Natsuko Sugama’s double made it 3-0. Yamamoto put the game away in the second inning by homering for the second straight game, taking reliever Chiu An-ju deep for a three-run blast that capped the four-run inning.

Two-way player Yamato Fujita pitched a 1-2-3 fifth to end the game via the mercy rule.

Japan has now won all five Asian Games softball golds, winning every final in a shutout.

“The players were under pressure not to lose at the Asian Games so I am relieved that we won,” Japan coach Reika Utsugi said. “We have received a lot of expectations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.”

Taiwan settled for the silver medal after beating China 5-4 in the bronze medal game to advance to the grand final against Japan. China, Japan and Taiwan remain the only nations to ever medal in Asian Games softball.