Olympic Softball 2021 Day 5 Results: USA Defeats Japan on Kelsey Stewart Walk-Off HR

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2021

United States' Ally Carda pitches against Japan in the first inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

A powerhouse showdown that ended with a dramatic walk-off home run for the Americans highlighted the final day of qualification for the softball competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

The clash between Japan and the United States was the headliner Sunday (Monday in Japan), while Canada faced Italy and Mexico battled Australia in the other two.

Here is a look at the schedule and results for the final day of qualifying. 

Sunday/Monday Olympic Softball Scores

United States 2, Japan 1

Canada 8, Italy 1

Mexico 4, Australia 1

USA 2, Japan 1

To say this was largely just a warm-up game would be an understatement.

While the United States earned temporary bragging rights with this 2-1 victory that ended with a walk-off homer from Kelsey Stewart, this qualifying contest was also just to determine the seeding for Tuesday's gold-medal game between the same two countries. That the opportunity for gold is just one win away should make this loss easier to accept for Japan.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

A walk-off for <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a>!<a href="https://twitter.com/USASoftball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USASoftball</a> beats Japan 2-1! They'll play Japan again Tuesday for GOLD! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/lXGeo01mch">pic.twitter.com/lXGeo01mch</a>

WBSC #Baseball ⚾ #Softball 🥎 #Tokyo2020 @WBSC

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 USA walks it off!!!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Softball?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Softball</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y777jgvqpm">pic.twitter.com/Y777jgvqpm</a>

Still, there was something at stake, with both sides looking to go undefeated through the qualifying process after entering play 4-0.

It was also a measuring-stick game since the United States (1996, 2000, 2004) and Japan (2008) are the only countries to win a softball gold medal at the Games, per Olympic Softball's official website. Japan also defeated the Americans in the gold-medal game in 2008.

That was the backdrop as Japan took a 1-0 lead when Saki Yamazaki scored on a passed ball in the first inning.

It appeared as if that would be enough with Yamato Fujita on the mound. She had no trouble with the United States hitters through five innings, but Valerie Arioto's RBI single in the sixth tied the game and set the stage for the walk-off.

Stewart wasted no time delivering on the opportunity and led off the bottom of the seventh with the game-winning blast.

The pitching trio of Ally Carda, Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott also deserves plenty of credit, combining to allow just one run while striking out 12 in seven innings.

Canada 8, Italy 1

Canada will head into the bronze-medal game riding high after a dominant 8-1 win over Italy.

The blowout came despite Canada sitting pitchers Sara Groenewegen and Jenna Caira, as the team already had a shot at bronze locked up.

Brett Lawrie gave up four hits and one earned run in three innings, while Lauren Regula struck out five in three innings of scoreless relief.

Italy allowed Canada to break things open by allowing three unearned runs in the fifth inning. Jen Gilbert hit a solo home run for the Canadians.

Mexico 4, Australia 1

 Victoria Vidales drove in two runs and Dallas Escobedo threw a sensational complete game to lead Mexico to a 4-1 win over Australia.

The win clinched Mexico's spot in the bronze-medal game against Canada. 

Meanwhile, Australia will fail to medal for the first time in history in softball competition.