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Cathi Aradi

USA Wins Japan Cup

Jessica Mendoza drove in both USA runs, including the game-winner with one out in the bottom of the eighth to lift USA to a 2-1 victory over Japan Sunday in the championship game of the Japan Cup. The win gives USA its fourth tournament championship of 2002 -- U.S. Cup, Canada Cup, ISF World Championship and Japan Cup. Japan was runner-up in three of the tournaments.

Japan broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third as Naomi Arai's two-out single scored pinch-runner Mikiko Tanaka from second. The run was the only run allowed by USA at the Japan Cup.

The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth when Leah O'Brien-Amico singled with two outs. Mendoza followed with a triple to right to plate O'Brien-Amico and tie the game.

In the bottom of the eighth, Nicole Giordano was placed on second for the international tie-breaker rule. After Natasha Watley was intentionally walked, Giordano advanced to third on a fielder's choice. Mendoza then singled to give USA the championship.

Lori Harrigan picked up the win with two perfect innings of relief. Harrigan was named Most Valuable Player of the Japan Cup as she posted a 2-0 record with a 0.00 earned run average.

Japan threatened to break the game open in the fifth inning, using two walks and a fielder's choice to load the bases with one out. But Jennie Finch retired the next two batters on fly outs to end the inning. Finch allowed one run and four hits in six innings pitched before giving way to Harrigan.

USA had a chance to win the game in the seventh inning, putting runners on first and second with one out. Teri Goldberg tried to score from second on Michele Smith's two-out single, but she was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

In the third-place game, China defeated Australia 3-2.

USA finished with a 4-0 record at the Japan Cup. USA opened with a 5-0 win over Australia Friday as Michele Smith tossed a four-hit shutout and Lovieanne Jung's bases-loaded triple highlighted a four-run second inning.

USA won a pair of games Saturday, defeating Japan 1-0 and China 4-0. Against Japan, Stacey Nuveman and Crystl Bustos opened the sixth inning with back-to-back doubles for the game's only run, and Harrigan made it stand with a three-hit shutout. Against China, Keira Goerl tossed a one-hitter and Crystl Bustos hit a two-run homer to lead USA. Goerl retired the first 10 batters she faced before allowing a one-out single in the fourth.