By Paul D. Bowker | Aug. 10, 2018, 12:01 a.m. (ET)
Keilani Ricketts bats against South Africa at the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship on Aug. 7, 2018 in Chiba, Japan.

 

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The U.S. women’s softball team is just three or fewer wins away from locking down a berth in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Team USA looks to successfully defend its world title this weekend as the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship comes to a conclusion in Japan.

Team USA, which won Group A in the preliminary round with a perfect 7-0 record, plays Australia in the playoff round Friday. A win in another playoff game Saturday would send the U.S. to the gold medal game on Sunday at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” said U.S. coach Ken Eriksen. “We’ve positioned ourselves for the playoff rounds. … We’re staying within what we do as USA. We’re not going to change our approaches. There isn’t any one team in the world that makes us do anything different. We’re going to still do what we do."

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The tournament champion clinches a berth in the six-team Olympic tournament as the sport makes its return to the Olympic program. Japan, the host country, has an automatic berth. Japan was the only other unbeaten team in the preliminary round, winning Group B.

U.S. pitcher Monica Abbott, a silver medalist at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, won three games with a 0.60 ERA in the prelims. She struck out 11 in Wednesday’s 8-1 win over Puerto Rico.

The U.S. has outscored its opponents 57-3. Only two teams, Mexico and Puerto Rico, scored runs against Team USA in the preliminary round.

Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc