YOKOHAMA, Japan --- The USA Softball National team suffered its second loss in as many days, falling 3-0 to Japan Sunday in the Japan Cup championship game.
A day removed from dropping a 1-0 decision to Japan, the U.S. offense combined for just four hits in the game due in part to the winning effort of Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who tallied eight strikeouts in the game.
The U.S. will look to rebound as it travels to Sendai, Japan, for a three-game series against Japan on August 3 and 4.
“Japan is playing really well right now,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “My hat goes off to them. They were on a roll. We will definitely learn from this experience. We like to compete, and we are going to find ways to get better. This team hasn’t been together but one week, but I believe in them.”
“I think it shows that at this point Japan is a better team,” said catcher Stacey Nuveman. “They are playing better softball. Ueno is pitching phenomenal. Right now, they deserve to win.”
U.S. starting pitcher Jennie Finch was tagged with the loss, allowing two earned runs and three walks in three innings.
The loss marks Team USA’s third consecutive to Japan this summer. Prior to Saturday’s loss, Ueno defeated the U.S. 3-1 in the championship game of the World Cup in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Japan took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning when leadoff Rei Nishiyama reached after being hit by a pitch from Finch. Emi Naito then connected on an infield base hit before Mikiko Yamada moved the two runners into scoring position. A squeeze bunt to U.S. first baseman Kellie Wilkerson proved to be successful when Nishiyama was ruled safe at home plate to put Japan up 1-0 with runners on the corners. A line drive base hit down the right field line from Sachiko Ito scored Naito for the 2-0 advantage.
After issuing a walk to Japan’s Masumi Yoshida, the U.S. called on lefty Cat Osterman. Japan quickly reacted, however, laying down a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runner to second. A passed ball moved Yoshida to third. A single over Osterman’s head to centerfield plated Japan’s third and final run.
The U.S. mounted a comeback in the bottom of the fourth inning as it loaded the bases. Base hits from Caitlin Lowe, Nuveman, and Wilkerson seemed promising, but with two outs, a groundout from Tairia Flowers halted the U.S. drive.