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Japan Beat China to Face US
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Japan notched their first playoff game by ousting China 1-0 on Sunday in the tiebreaker to challenge United States next round at women's softball worlds, which is the first Olympic test event in Beijing.

The game was held scoreless until the eighth inning (tiebreaker). Both sides built up unpenetrating defense with no hit in the first four innings in the seesaw game.

Japan took the upper hand in offense by batting their first hit in the fourth out of Aki Uenishi, followed by one more single from Eri Yamada, but they failed to turn out a run.

Japan reached the second base for the first time in the fifth with Emi Inui bunted the ball to send Megu Hirose to second after she singled, but Japan failed to go further in the inning.

China's first hit came in the bottom of sixth with two doubles in a row by Xin Minhong and Jiang Xin, which helped China took over second and third bases with no out. But the following three batters squandered China's best chance to lead, with two being struck out and one fielded out motivated by Japan's well-known pitcher Yukiko Ueno.

Japan reinforced their offense in the seventh to get all based loaded through singles from Masumi Mishina and Aymumi Karino and awalk given by Yu Huili, who was then relieved by Lu Wei. China dodged Japan's run after fielding out Japan's third batter to push the game into tiebreaker.

The tiebreaker had attacking side starting offense from second base, so that the scoring opportunity comes easy. Eri Yamada doubled to reach the third base as China touched out Aki Uenishi near the home plate, then Sachiko Ito singled to drive Eri Yamada home to produce the decisive and sole run for Japan. China's offense came out fruitless with two being struck out and one fielding out after a misplay steal.

Ueno pitched all through to strike out ten, allowing only three hits. China's two pitchers drop seven hits and collected eight strikeouts.

Japan, the bronze medallist in Athens Olympic Games, will play against United States again on Monday for a rematch of the championship's grand final.

China will play against the winners of Italy versus Venezuela on Monday to recover the chance to reach grand final.

"This victory should be credited to my players. I'm very happy and thanks all of you," said Hidetomi Ikama, Japan coach.

"We will try our best for tomorrow's game."

"I was sure that I would make good pitches. I was confident that I would make it," Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno said so when talking about China's runners on second and third bases in the sixth.

"Individually, I think it's really a tough game, but we also gained happiness through the game. Meanwhile, Thank you all!"

"Surely, we'll try our best to win. And then think about the next goal."

"I feel disappointed badly on our loss today. Though we created many chances to score, I'm really unpleasant to see that we could not persist till the last minute to win," said Michael Bastian, China's coach.

The World Softball Championship is the first Olympic test event in Beijing with 16 teams competing in two pools before the page-system playoffs, which will produce four spots (excluding China, the host) participating Beijing 2008 Olympics.

(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2006)

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