Japan triumphed in a heavyweight clash at the ISF Women's
Softball World Championships yesterday, defeating defending
champions the United States.
In only the US team's second defeat in the past 20 years, during
which they have won five consecutive World titles, Japan,
runners-up in the last World Cup in Canada, scored the upset
In the other play-off game, a single-run homer from Stacey
Porter gave Australia a 1-0 victory over China and eliminated the
hosts from the championships. The Aussies will play the US today
for the other place in the gold medal game. China finished with a
In a highly-anticipated meeting between the US and Japan, both
teams were looking to conserve their perfect record. Japan were
looking forward to a change in fortunes after losing to the US 5-2
in the title game at the II World Cup a month ago. The US for their
part were hoping to kept their winning streak at the Worlds
Neither team was able to score a run until the fourth inning.
Aki Uenishi broke the deadlock after a pitch from US glamour girl
Jennie Finch. She then moved to the second and third on Emi Naito's
single and Eri Yamada's sacrifice bunt respectively before making
Finch failed to lift her performance, allowing Sachiko Ito to
hit another single and drive Naito home.
Japan extended their lead to 3-0 at the bottom of fifth as Ayumi
Karino's double sent Megu Hirose home.
The Americans did everything they could to bring the game back,
including a run from Caitlin Lowe who scored on Crystl Bustos'
double in the sixth but their efforts proved insufficient.
Japanese starter Yukiko Ueno gave another outstanding
performance, pitching a complete game with three hits and seven
strikeouts. Finch allowed two runs on two hits over four innings
with two strikeouts. Jamie Southern closed the game with two
strikeouts, two hits and one run.
"It's our best game in this tournament," said Japanese head
coach Hidetomi Ikama. "Japan made a breakthrough and won the game
in the best way."
Ikama was full of praise for Ueno, saying the pitcher made a
difference in the game.
"Yukiko Ueno successfully contained USA's offence at the
beginning of the game," he said. "It's impossible for us to win
without Yukiko Ueno. There's still a gap between us and USA."
The US can still claim the gold if they can defeat Australia
China was another loser yesterday, as they bid farewell to the
tournament with a heart-breaking 1-0 defeat to Australia.
Both teams were pumped after winning their first play-off games
earlier in the day. China defeated Italy 9-1 in a five-inning
shutout, while Australia came back to beat Canada 7-2.
They went head-to-head during the crucial night-time session.
Porter's homer in the fourth inning was the highlight of the game,
enough to end it in regular time.
When a fly ball from China's last batter Wu Di was caught, the
Aussies ran into the field to celebrate the tough win and silent
the home audience.
"It's hurts bad," said China's Michael Bastian. "Tonight's game
was decided by one pitch that gave one home run."
Bastian came into the tournament with an ambitious goal of
winning the first ever Worlds gold for China.
"I am very disappointed with the result," he said.
"I've only coached the Chinese national team for a year but
fourth place is odd for me. I cannot remember how many fourth
places we have had in the past Olympics and Worlds."
China finished fourth place at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens
Olympic Games and also in the last Worlds in 2002.
But Bastian believes China is coming closer, especially after
three tight losses, 2-0 to US, 1-0 to Japan and 1-0 to
"We've come a long way to get here. We are much better than we
used to be."
(China Daily September 5, 2006)