Olympic Softball 2021: Japan Defeats USA to Win Gold Medal

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 27, 2021

Japan's Saki Yamazaki reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a softball game against the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Japan defeated the United States 2-0 to win gold in softball at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

Pure elation as Japan wins softball gold as the host country of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a>! 🇯🇵 🥇<a href="https://t.co/tIbL36EeD6">pic.twitter.com/tIbL36EeD6</a>

Taking place at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, the game was a pitchers' duel that saw Japan hold the Americans to three hits.

While softball was not included in the Olympic program in 2012 or 2016, Japan has won back-to-back gold medals in the event when it has been contested. It beat Team USA in the gold-medal game at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well.

Starting pitcher Yukiko Ueno was the star for Japan, holding the Americans to two hits while walking two and striking out five over six innings. Miu Goto closed out the game in the seventh.

Team USA reached the gold-medal game thanks to dominant pitching, and it used a committee approach as Cat Osterman, Ally Carda and Monica Abbott all pitched at least two innings.

Osterman and Abbott didn't give up any runs, but Carda struggled in the middle innings, surrendering three hits, one walk and two runs in 2.2 innings.

The big offensive plays for Japan came in the fourth and fifth innings. Japan scratched across one run in the fourth on a Mana Atsumi RBI single and another in the fifth thanks to a Yamato Fujita RBI single.

Japan also came up big on defense a couple of times to keep Team USA off the board.

In the bottom of the first, Janie Reed was thrown out at home while trying to score on a wild pitch.

Team USA later threatened in the bottom of the sixth inning with runners on first and second with one out, but Amanda Chidester lined out to Atsumi at shortstop off a ricochet, and Atsumi doubled up Michelle Moultrie at second.

Japan had a chance to put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh, but Reed came through with one of the most spectacular plays of the tournament, robbing Fujita of a two-run home run to left:

#TokyoOlympics @NBCOlympics

.<a href="https://twitter.com/_janiereed?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_janiereed</a> continues making big plays to stop the home run! 😤<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/USASoftballWNT?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USASoftballWNT</a> <a href="https://t.co/lfVEJbDewX">pic.twitter.com/lfVEJbDewX</a>

That play gave the Americans life and hope entering the bottom of the seventh, but they went down in order, and Japan celebrated another Olympic gold medal in softball.

Japan clinched gold on home soil and found retribution after losing to Team USA in the final game of the round-robin stage in walk-off fashion.

The U.S. was a perfect 5-0 entering Tuesday's game, but offense was an issue throughout the tournament, as the Americans didn't score more than two runs in any of their six games.

Adding to the enormity of the win for Japan and the heartbreak of defeat for Team USA is the fact that softball is not part of the 2024 Olympic program in Paris.

It is expected to return for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles, although many of the players on both Japan and the United States may not be back in seven years.