(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos by WBSC & Marco Stoovelaar)
Japan wins Olympic Softball Gold; Two Dutch officials in Final
TOKYO / YOKOHAMA (Japan) -
Japan shutout the USA 2-0 in the all-deciding Final of the Softball-tournament of the Olympic Games on Tuesday-evening (July 27) to win the Olympic Gold Medal on home-soil.
Earlier in the day, Canada nipped Mexico 3-2 to win Bronze and capture its first Olympic Softball Medal.
It was rainy in the past few days and typhoon In-Fa is approaching.
Today started with rain and there also was rain during the Bronze Medal-game, but the deciding games could be played.
Softball returned to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2008 when the multi-sports event was organized in Beijing (China).
Starting on Wednesday, baseball also makes it comeback after not being part of the Olympics in 2012 (London, United Kingdom) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
In the Bronze Medal-game, Canada took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but Mexico came alongside by scoring in the third and fifth inning.
Canada re-took the lead in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Kelsey Harshman.
...Yukiko Ueno (17) and her teammates celebrate...|
...winning the Gold Medal...
(© Photo: WBSC)
By winning the Final, Japan successfully defended its Olympic title, as the country also won Gold in Beijing in 2008.
Back then, Japan also faced the USA in the Final and then won with a 3-1 score.
The Americans won Gold in the first three Olympic Softball-tournaments in 1996 (Atlanta, USA), 2000 (Sydney, Australia) and 2004 (Athens, Greece).
Veteran pitchers Yukiko Ueno and Cat Osterman faced each other again, 13 years after also pitching the Final of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Yukiko Ueno threw a strong game for Japan.
In 2008, the righthander also was the winnining pitcher in the Olympic Final after already having won Silver in the 2004 Olympics.
In that year, Ueno threw the first Olympic Perfect Game.
Both teams got a runner on third base in the first inning.
For Japan, Eri Yamada led off with an infield-hit towards starting pitcher Cat Osterman.
Yamada moved on a sacrifce bunt and a grounder, but then stranded on third base.
For the USA, Janie Reed tripled with one out.
Next batter Amanda Chidester then struckout, but the third strike was a wild pitch.
Reed tried to score, but was eliminated at the plate.
Yukiko Ueno then dominated in the next at bats.
She was supported with a double play in the second inning, then retired the side in the third and fourth at bat.
Japan also got into scoring position in the top of of the second inning off of Cat Osterman, one of the veterans in the American team.
She won Gold in the 2004 Olympics and Silver in 2008.
With one out, Saki Yamazaki doubled, but two flyouts followed.
After Mana Atsumi led off for Japan with a walk in the third inning, Ally Carda took over the American pitching.
The righthander struckout nine batters and gave up four hits and one (unearned) run in 5 1/3 inning in the last round-robin game against Japan on Monday.
The USA then won 2-1 on a walk-off homerun by Kelsey Stewart in the seventh inning.
Carda saw Atsumi being eliminated on a bunt, but with two outs, she hit a battter.
A grounder ended the at bat, but in the top of the fourth, Japan opened the score with two outs.
Yamato Fujita led off the fourth with a single, was brought into scoring position via a sacrifice bunt by Saki Yamazaki and advanced to third base on a grounder by Haruka Agatsuma.
With two outs, Yuka Ichiguchi walked and Fujita then scored on an infield-hit by Mana Atsumi.
Japan doubled its lead in the fifth inning and again scored with two outs.
After the first two batters were retired, Yu Yamamoto singled, which was followed by a pitching change, as Monica Abbott took over.
She is another pitching veteran in Team USA and also was a member of the Silver Team in 2008.
However, the fourth delivery by Abbott was a wild pitch, which enable Yamamoto to move to second base.
Two pitches later, she scored on a single by Yamato Fujita.
Now trailing 2-0, Team USA got its lead-off hitter on base in the bottom of the fifth when Ali Aguilar walked.
Yukiko Ueno retired the next three batters, two with a strikeout.
After Japan had stranded a runner on second base in the sixth inning, the USA got its lead-off hitter on base again in the bottom of the sixth.
Michelle Moultrie led off with a single, which led to a pitching change.
Miu Goto took over and began with a strikeout, but then gave up a single to Janie Reed.
A crucial play then followed.
Next batter Amanda Chidester hit a line drive, but that was caught by 3B Yu Yamamoto and it let to a double play, as Moultrie was eliminated at second base.
In the bottom of the seventh, Yukiko Ueno re-entered as pitcher and retired the side to seal the win!
|...Mariana Prins, Dennis Duin & Linda Steijger...|
(© All Photos: Marco Stoovelaar)
With that, Japan had another successful tournament under the guidance of Reika Utsugi, who is the Manager of the team since 2011.
Utsugi, who won Olympic Silver as a player in 2000 and 2004, also led Japan to two World Championship-titles.
The Netherlands didn't qualify for the Olympic Games, as it was eliminated in 2019 during the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Vleuten (Netherlands), which was won by Italy.
However, there were two game-officials from the Netherlands who were assigned for the Final.
Umpire Mariana Prins was at third base and Dennis Duin was one of the three Official Scorers.
Linda Steijger was the Scoring Director for the Softball Tournament.
Also, one of the Olympic softball-records involving a Dutch player that was upheld was that of the youngest player ever.
In 2008, Britt Vonk was 17 years, four months and one day old when she participated in Beijing.
And that still is the Olympic Softball Record.
1. Japan, 2. USA, 3. Canada, 4. Mexico, 5. Australia, 6. Italy.