Japan and Team USA faced off for the eighth time in the gold-medal game. It was all set up for the Americans to close out the week as heroes.
Instead it was Japan who found a way to close the door on a potent USA lineup and earn a 2-1 victory on Sunday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“Tonight against a good team like Japan, we gave them some free bases and really didn’t have the type of hitting that we needed,” said catcher Aubree Munro.
With the victory, Japan claimed the World Cup of Softball XI gold medal, while the Americans were left with the silver. It was their only loss of the week.
“I was very proud of the fact that we had young kids step up this week, we didn’t panic, and sometimes the difference between a gold and silver is a fingernail,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said. “I think when you take a look up and down our lineup, everybody can hit it well. We’ve got rookie pitchers out here that are moving in the right direction. I can’t wait for us to get to the (world championships) and get started.”
Team USA faced Japan last year In the World Cup and came away with an easy 6-1 win. Japan turned the tables this time around.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Team USA loaded the bases with only one out on the board. A single hit could have either tied the contest or even scored the go-ahead run.
But Team USA was unable to connect and Japan got the final two outs to close out the night.
Japan went undefeated at 7-0 while Team USA finished the World Cup of Softball with a 6-1 record.
“I think this week was good for us in really coming together,” Munro said. “It felt like this tournament really gave us an opportunity to play as a team consistently. It wasn’t just a few games here or there like we had been doing over the last month. It was really good for us to be in the same area for an extended period of time. Also, every time you play Japan, you get more information. You are more prepared for the next time you play Japan. They are a really good team. They prepare very well. So this is going to help us.”
Japan has defeated Team USA in three of the four meetings this summer.
USA Elite, the national team’s developmental squad, lost a heartbreaker to Japan on July 9 to close out pool play. That placed them in the bronze-medal game against Australia.
One again, the Elite saw their contest come down to the final innings before they fell 4-3.
“The team hit the ball well, it just comes down to whoever plays the best at the end,” Elite coach Tairia Flowers. “This team can swing the bat, and now they’ve gotten the chance to see how international softball is. We have some really talented girls. They’re young, they’re excited, and they want to get better.”
Because of the success of both USA teams at the World Cup, Eriksen said he is excited for what the future offers the rest of the year at the WBSC World Championships (July 15-24) and the Japan Cup (Aug. 24-Sept. 5).
From GameChanger and Michael Kinney. Photo by Torrey Purvey.