Japan bounced back from being shut out by the United States during the preliminary round and edged the U.S. women 2-1 in the championship game of World Cup Softball XII on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
The U.S., ranked second in the world to Japan, shut out its rival 5-0 earlier in the tournament, but could not get over the hump against Japan in the World Cup final for the second year in a row.
The U.S. won eight World Cups from 2006-2015, while Japan now has four titles (2005, 2013, 2016, 2017).
Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning on a two-run single to centerfield by Minami Sato, scoring Mana Atsumi and Natsuko Sugama.
The U.S. got one run back in the bottom of the fourth when Aubree Munro belted a line drive single to second, scoring Valerie Arioto. Janie Takeda followed up with a single to load the bases, but Yukiko Ueno, entering the game for Yamato Fugita, got Haylie McCleney to strike out swinging to end the inning.
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The U.S. had a chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the seventh when Kelsey Stewart hit a two-out, standup double to left center, but Ueno got Ali Aguilar to go down swinging, ending the game. Ueno struck out six.
Starting pitcher Jessica Moore took the loss for the U.S., going three innings while giving up both runs and all three Japanese hits.
The Japanese women also beat the Americans two games to one in the WBSC-sanctioned USA vs. Japan All-Star Series two weeks ago, winning the rubber game 5-3 on a walk-off grand slam by Yu Yamamoto.
The U.S. had a short turnaround for the game after a 10-1 win against Australia Saturday that went past midnight into Sunday. The U.S. won seven straight games leading up to the title game, outscoring opponents 51-6 before the loss in the championship game.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.