• Kyodo


Relief pitcher Miu Goto stranded five runners over the final two innings, and Mana Atsumi singled in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth as Japan beat Mexico 3-2 on Thursday to improve to 2-0 in the Tokyo Olympic softball tournament.

Japan manager Reika Utsugi left ace Yukiko Ueno on the mound in the seventh to celebrate her 39th birthday with what she hoped would be a complete-game victory, but the right-hander surrendered the tying run and left the game with two on and no outs.

“I was about done going into the last inning, but because it was my birthday, the skipper kept me in. It’s really unfortunate I was unable to close it out, but the way everyone fought back, this win makes me extremely happy,” said Ueno, who pitched Japan to the gold medal in the last Olympic softball tournament in 2008.

“This was a huge win for us.”

Goto retired all three batters she faced in the seventh, striking out two, and when Japan failed to score, she struck out three more in the eighth to leave the bases loaded.

“She throws really hard, so she’s trustworthy and someone you feel good leaving the game in her hands,” Ueno said of Goto.

Unlike Mexico, Japan was able to score the runner who started the extra inning on second base. Captain Eri Yamada went to third on a ground out and scored on Atsumi’s game-winning bunt single.

Japan’s two-way star, Yamato Fujita, opened the scoring in the second inning with her second home run of the tournament. Mexico, however, tied it in the fifth on Anissa Urtez’s first homer of the Tokyo Games.

Haruka Agatsuma broke a 1-1 fifth-inning tie, only for Mexico to tie it 2-2 in the seventh on Urtez’s RBI single off Ueno.

Earlier Thursday, the United States topped Canada 1-0 to remain unbeaten. Haylie McCleney scored on an Amanda Chidester RBI single in the fifth inning and Monica Abbott, who plays professionally in Japan, pitched a complete game, giving up one hit and striking out nine in a 102-pitch effort.

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