MAKUHARI, Japan – Kelsey Stewart drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning as the United States beat Japan 7-6 in the final of the women’s world softball championship on Sunday.
Stewart’s single down the third base line scored the runner from third as the defending champions rallied with three runs in the 10th off Japan starter Yukiko Ueno.
Aubree Monroe and Michelle Moultrie also drove in runs in the 10th.
“They always find a way to come back,” said U.S. coach Ken Eriksen. “I tell them `don’t get too wrapped up in what your swings looks like, what your pitch is supposed to do. Just play softball.“’
The tournament doubles as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. secured its spot in the Olympics earlier Sunday when Japan beat Canada 3-0. Japan is automatically in the 2020 tournament as host.
Softball and baseball were dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games but have been restored for 2020.
Sunday’s final was a re-match of the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics that Japan won by a score of 3-1.
Ueno also went the distance in the win over Canada, striking out seven while giving up four hits and no walks.
Eriksen paid tribute to Ueno, who pitched a total of 17 innings in hot and humid weather on Sunday.
“There are not many pitchers who could do what she did,” said Eriksen. “It shows you how great she is. We got fortunate that she ran out of gas at the end, her ball wasn’t moving as much as it was in the last inning.”
Monica Abbott, the fifth U.S. pitcher used, picked up the win despite giving up two runs on one hit over the final two innings.
The countries that don’t qualify for the six-team Olympic competition at the worlds might have a second chance at continental tournaments next year.
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