The host nation of Japan scored a 2-0 shutout win over Team USA on Saturday to win the gold medal in baseball at the Tokyo Olympics.
Munetaka Murakami hit a third-inning home run to give Japan a lead it would never relinquish. The hosts added a second run on an American error in the eighth, and the pitching staff took care of the rest as five pitchers combined to hold the U.S. to six hits.
The United States brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after a single by Nick Allen, but Jack Lopez grounded into a fielder's choice to end the comeback effort.
WHAT A MOMENT!<br><br>Japan wins their first Olympic GOLD in baseball and they do it on their home turf. 🥇<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/1pljdfMCCQ">pic.twitter.com/1pljdfMCCQ</a>
Japan's rich baseball history made the tournament one of the spotlight events of the Tokyo Games and, while the lack of fans amid the COVID-19 pandemic dampened the atmosphere inside Yokohama Stadium, the country was able to secure its first Olympic gold medal in the sport.
Saturday's win capped an undefeated run for the Japanese side. It won both of its pool-play games against the Dominican Republic and Mexico before beating the United States twice and South Korea as part of the knockout stages en route to the top spot on the podium.
Japan's softball team also beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game earlier in the Olympics.
The United States' offense carried the team to the championship game, scoring 28 runs over five games, including six in a prior loss to Japan and seven against South Korea in the losers' bracket final.
Team USA simply couldn't generate any sustained rallies against the Japanese staff Saturday, though. Its six hits came in six different innings, and only once, in the sixth, did the U.S. get more than one runner on base. That frame ended with a Jamie Westbrook pop out with runners on first and second.
Japan starter Masato Morishita pitched five shutout innings with five strikeouts. Four relievers (Kodai Senga, Hiromi Itoh, Suguru Iwazaki and Ryoji Kuribayashi) each added a scoreless frame out of the bullpen to finish off the victory.
Tetsuto Yamada, Masataka Yoshida and Seiya Suzuki each had two hits for Japan. Allen had three of the U.S.' six hits, but nobody could bring him around to score.
Earlier Saturday, the Dominican Republic scored a 10-6 win over South Korea in the bronze-medal game.
Baseball, which had been off the Olympic program since 2008, returned for the Tokyo Games but isn't on the schedule for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.