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U.S. Claims Japan Cup in Extra Innings

 

It was a battle of two of the world’s best softball teams and it was evident as the United States Women’s National team fought through 11 innings to bring home another Japan Cup title with a 3-2 victory over Japan in Yokohama, Japan. 

Despite two errors and two wild pitches which resulted in two runs, the team rallied back to defeat Japan 3-2 in the title game of the Japan Cup. 
 
Yukiko Ueno and Monica Abbott battled in a pitcher’s duel until Japan’s Ayumi Karino singled in the third. Karino stole second and reached third on a throwing error by catcher Stacey Nuveman. An Abbott strikeout, however, kept runners off the board. 

The top of the batting order broke up the scoreless game in the fourth when Caitlin Lowe singled to lead off the inning. She advanced to second on a passed ball, and moved to third when Natasha Watley singled to centerfield. Lowe scored on an RBI single by Jessica Mendoza to give the team a 1-0 lead. 

Hiroki Sakai came in at the top of the fifth to pitch for Japan. Japan answered back in the sixth as it capitalized on U.S. defensive mistakes to plate a run. Leadoff batter Karino was hit by a pitch and would eventually advanced to third on a wild pitch. She scores on a throwing error by Nuveman to even the score at 1-1. 

Neither team could break the tie in the seventh, pushing the game into extra innings with Cat Osterman coming in to pitch. Abbott threw six complete innings with 11 strikeouts, giving up one run and one wild pitch. 

The score remained tied until the bottom of the 10th when the red, white and blue regained the lead. With Mendoza at second due to the International tie breaker rule, Crystl Bustos was intentionally walked and Nuveman loaded the bases with a single. Following a Kelly Kretschman fielder’s choice that put Lauren Lappin out at home, Tairia Flowers broke the tie with a walk in the 10th.

 

Japan tied the game back up in the home half of the frame when Yamada, who was the tie breaking runner on second, crossed home plate on a wild pitch. 

Watley answered for the United States as she gave the team what would prove to be the winning run with her single to center that scored Lovie Jung. Two strikeouts by Osterman, who allowed a run on two hits with 10 strikeouts in five innings, and a runner caught stealing secured the 3-2 win for the United States. 

Watley earned MVP honors after driving in three runs, including the game-winner against Japan, during the three-day event. Mendoza led the Japan Cup at the plate, hitting .368 (7-for-19) in four starts.