Japan used an early lead to win the 2013 World Cup of Softball against the USA by a score of 6-3 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
Despite the loss, USA Softball's Twitter feed summed it up best:
A pop up ends the game. Japan wins 6-3. Great World Cup of softball for all teams.— ASA and USA Softball (@ASAUSASoftball) July 15, 2013
Team USA's loss ended a streak of six straight World Cup Championships and gave Japan its second after winning the inaugural event in 2005. The two teams are still the only nations who have won the event.
After losing to the Japanese just one day prior, the Americans got a chance at redemption in Sunday's championship game.
But it was short-lived. Japan would secure the game's first run in the opening inning and really put USA's backs against the wall with a four-run second inning. Yuka Ichiguchi's single knocked in two runs and started the scoring off in the second followed by Yuka Hayashi, who also knocked in two runs in the inning.
All of the sudden, Japan had a commanding 5-1 lead.
However, an RBI hit from Michelle Moultrie in the bottom of the second got USA on the board. A solo shot home run from Lauren Gibson in the third inning cut the lead down to 5-2, and it was the big play that the Americans needed to boost momentum and turn fate.
Entering the fourth inning, USA pitcher Jennifer Moore had already given up five runs on seven hits and desperately needed to get her team back into the dugout without a score.
A triple from Japan early in the inning was aided by a fielding miss from Taylor Hoagland, and it was followed by Hayashi notching her third RBI of the contest on a single to put Japan up 6-2.
Another single would put runners on second and third with two outs, and that's when Sara Nevins came on in relief of Moore. She fanned her first batter for a big strikeout, keeping those two runners from increasing the lead and giving America a chance to let the bats come to life.
The USA Softball Twitter feed was understandably excited from the defensive moment:
Nevins retires the threat with a strikeout. Score stands 6-2 Japan in the bottom of the fourth. Let's hear you fans! USA USA USA!— ASA and USA Softball (@ASAUSASoftball) July 15, 2013
Nevins would come up big again by stopping another jam in the sixth, but she never got the help from USA's bats that she needed. Despite a stellar six strikeouts and just two hits in 3.1 innings, she couldn't will her team back to victory.
Amanda Chidester would score with two outs in the seventh off a double from Valerie Arioto, but it was too little, too late for the Americans.
It was an odd year for Team USA, which entered the competition with 12 rookies and had plenty of growing up to do in the short tournament. Unfortunately for the Americans, the younger squad came up just short.
Japan was undoubtedly the better team in Oklahoma City this weekend and is deserving of the crown. But it'll be interesting to see how USA responds next year, with a more seasoned and battle-tested lineup.