U.S. splits day two of Japan Series
SENDAI, Japan --- Capturing the series with a 2-1 record, the USA Softball National team spilt the final day of the Sendai three-game series with Japan. Recording three home runs, the U.S. opened Thursday with a 5-3 afternoon win before suffering a 1-0 loss in the evening game falling victim Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno who recorded 12 strikeouts.
Overall, the U.S. posted a 4-3 record for the Japan trip, and leftfielder Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) led the offense batting .476. Tairia Flowers (Tucson, Ariz.) had a team high seven RBI with three home runs on the week.
GAME 2: JAPAN 1 USA 0
A game dominated by the pitching of Japan’s Yukiko Ueno who fanned 12 U.S. batters, the U.S. suffered a 1-0 loss to Japan in its second game of the day. Recording just one run in the game, Japan capitalized on a first inning opportunity and it was just enough as the U.S. only recorded two hits in the contest.
“Freed had a rocky first inning and then really settled down and threw well,” said head coach Mike Candrea. “We had some opportunities tonight and just couldn’t get the big hit. I thought we competed hard and we look forward to seeing them again in the future. Ueno is a solid pitcher and throws hard. She has a good off speed pitch.”
A wild pitch from losing pitcher Amanda Freed (Cypress, Calif.) gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the first inning after she loaded the bases on two walks and a base hit from Rei Nishiyama.
Battling the speed and power of Ueno, Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) recorded the first U.S. hit of the game in the top of the third inning driving the ball through the right side. Team USA left Finch stranded, however, as Ueno baffled the U.S. with a strikeout and ground out to end the half inning.
Continuing to do so, Ueno and Japan’s defense retired five consecutive batters through the fourth inning keeping the U.S. off balance.
Japan saw Satoko Mabuchi reach scoring position in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Freed held strong as a ground to Finch at first base closed the inning.
The U.S. saw its first runner of the game reach scoring position in the top of the fifth. Lead off batter Flowers struck out swinging, but was called safe when first baseman Nishiyama committed an error fielding the catch on a dropped third strike. A fielder’s choice from Jenny Topping (Whittier, Calif.) put Flowers out at second before pinch runner Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) entered for Topping and stole second. Calling on Finch to begin the two out rally, a strikeout swinging kept Japan in front 1-0.
With two outs, the U.S. saw its final scoring opportunity to score in the sixth inning with runners at the corners. Vicky Galindo (Union City, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice before advancing to third on the U.S. second hit of the game from Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.). Ueno struck again, however, as Stacey Nuveman (La Verne, Calif.) battled fouling off several pitches before being caught frozen on a third strike.
Once last opportunity, with two outs in the seventh, the U.S. called on pinch hitter Kellie Wilkerson (Jacksonville, Fla.) who lined out to Ueno to seal the Japanese victory.
GAME 1: USA 5 JAPAN 3
Recording three home runs in the game, the U.S. captured its second consecutive victory against Japan on Thursday afternoon in a 5-3 decision. Fighting the heat of the indoor stadium, Tairia Flowers, Stacey Nuveman and Jessica Mendoza each contributed the long ball, while a combined pitching effort lifted the U.S. over Japan.
“It was nice to see us use our power today,” said Nuveman. “I felt like I was seeing the ball well and just relaxed in the box, taking my time with every pitch.”
Starting pitcher Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) captured her first national team victory going four innings allowing two runs on four hits, while Jamie Southern (Clovis, Calif.) added two innings and Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) closed the game in the seventh earning the save.
Japan jumped on the top of the U.S. defense right away in the first inning laying down three successful bunts putting runners at second and third with one out. A called strikeout from Abbott changed the U.S. momentum, but Japan’s Naoko Sakamoto then ripped a two RBI base hit through the middle giving Japan a 2-0 early lead.
Reaching on a lead off error by Japanese first baseman Rei Nishiyama, Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) started things for the U.S. in the bottom of the first before Mendoza battled, earning a base on balls. With one out, the U.S. called on Nuveman and Kellie Wilkerson (Jacksonville, Fla.) to produce an RBI, but pitcher Yuko Endo forced a fly out and pop out leaving the runners stranded.
Her third home run of the week, RBI leader Flowers put the U.S. on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second with a lead off solo home run to centerfield. A 2-1 pitch, Flowers connected on a line drive shot just over the 220 fences for a 2-1 game score. Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) later reached third base representing the tying run contributing a base hit combined with two sacrifice bunts. A line drive to third base from Lowe ended the U.S. hopes to tie, leaving Japan with the 2-1 advantage.
Using the long ball, the U.S. took control of the game in the bottom of the third inning with back-to-back solo home runs. The quick left-handed swat of Mendoza drove a 3-2 pitch to centerfield before Nuveman powered the ball deep over the left field bleachers lifting the U.S. on top 3-2. Reaching on a Japanese error at first base, Wilkerson recorded the U.S. third run of the inning scoring on a Flowers single through the right side for the 4-2 lead.
Japan put Satoko Mabuchi in scoring position in the fourth after a single and wild pitch, but Abbott settled down with a strikeout and fly out to keep the 4-2 score.
Breaking through a slump, Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calf.) roped a double through the right side to lead the fifth, later advancing to third on a wild pitch. A sacrifice fly out from Mendoza charted her second RBI of the game plating Watley to push the U.S. up 5-2.
Pinch hitter Eri Yamada put a triple through left center in the top of the sixth inning. An RBI groundout from Mayumi Yoshida plated Yamada putting the game at a 5-3 U.S. advantage.
Jamie Southern (Clovis, Calif.) entered the circle in the fifth for the U.S. going two innings allowing one earned run, one walk and one strikeout. Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) closed the game for the U.S. in the seventh inning allowing one hit and recording one strikeout.
The U.S. totaled six hits in the contest as Flowers was 2-for-3 with two RBI. Motoko Fujimoto led all batters going 3-for-4.
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USA Softball is the brand created, operated and owned by the ASA that links the USA Men’s, Women’s, Junior Boys’ and Junior Girls’ National Team programs together. USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting these four National Teams to compete in international and domestic competitions. The USA Softball Women’s National Team is one of the only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three consecutive gold medals at the Olympic Games since 1996. The U.S. women have also won seven World Championship titles including the last five consecutive.