Japan secured their first World Cup of Softball title since the inaugural tournament in 2005 Sunday with a 6-3 victory over a new-look United States team, ending the host’s run of six consecutive World Cup wins in the process.
Japanese opener Misato Kawano reached first base and came home to score off a single from Yukiyo Mine to get the ball rolling for her side.
The U.S. team was shutout in their first inning, and Japan took full advantage as the floodgates opened in their second inning with Natsuko Ono and Nozomi Shimasaki both scoring off a single from Yuka Ighiguchi, before their lead was extended with a further two runs to make it 5-0 after just one and half innings.
The second inning from the U.S. saw them claw back one run as Kourtney Salvarola scored off a base hit from Michelle Moultrie, taking advantage of a fielding mix up to cut the Japanese lead to four runs.
A huge home run from Lauren Gibson followed in the third to make it 5-2 and giving the hosts a glimmer of hope, but Japan retook their four-run advantage when Ighiguchi reached on a triple and scored from the single off Yuki Hayaghi at the top of the fourth inning.
A late U.S. fight-back in the seventh looked a possibility when the hosts dug deep to make it 6-3 as Amanda Chidester scored from a Valerie Arioto double, but it was not to be for the Americans, who surrendered their title for the first time since they lost to Japan in the inaugural tournament back in 2005.
Despite the defeat, 2012 U.S. Softball Player of the Year Arioto is looking forward to the challenge of facing Japan once more at next week’s Canada Cup, and believes that her team does have what it takes to get the better of their rivals after three consecutive defeats at their hands.
“I don’t think they’re stronger than us,” Arioto told insidethegames. “We definitely fought hard, a couple of things didn’t go our way and we wish we would have got the gold but we’re going to see them again in Canada and I think the last couple of times we’ve played against them we’ve learnt a lot about them, and that will really help us down the road. We see them a lot so they’re going to know us and we’re going to know them and we just have to keep fighting. We’ve done a great job of keeping the energy up and that’s what we need to keep going with, not changing our game in any way, just going out there on the field in the next game and giving it our all.”
“The effort, hustle and fight from our girls was incredible,” U.S. head coach Ken Eriksen added. “We still have some adjustments to make, but I’m excited for our future. Fortunately for us we got to play two games against Japan and get that experience that we needed.”
Australia pulled off a surprising defeat against an in-form Canada side, who were the only team to defeat Japan throughout the tournament, in the bronze medal match, winning 4-3 in extra innings to end their opponents run of three straight wins in the tournament.
And, the U.S. overpowered Puerto Rico in the day’s first match, ending the game 10-3 in five innings thanks to a two-run home run from Amber Freeman, a solo home run from Taylor Thom and the pitching of Arioto – in place of Aimee Creger – who conceded just one hit and no runs to help secure the victory.
Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.