WHITEHORSE, Y.T. – It took 10 innings for Japan to do what hadn’t been done in 31 years, defeat the United States in the finals of the International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championship. USA, the nine time defending World Champions, came up just short in the 2012 finals falling to Japan 2-1 on Sunday the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America announced today.
Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) got the start in the circle for the USA. The left hander threw nine and a third innings only giving up one run on four hits. Ricketts struck out 10 Japanese batters in the game. Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) and Chelsea Thomas (Pleasantville, Iowa) both entered in relief in the tenth before Ricketts returned to pick up the final out of the inning. Traina, having surrendered the go-ahead run in the tenth was credited with the loss for Team USA.
“It was a tough battle,” said Ricketts. “We fought them through ten innings and gave it 100 percent, we just came up a little short.”
Yukiko Ueno went the complete game in the circle for Japan only giving up one run on three hits and striking out eight USA batters.
The game was scoreless through the first eight innings of play. Japan’s Yamada lead off the first inning with a single but Ricketts didn’t allow anymore and the inning closed with the runner stranded. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that Japan got their second hit but Ricketts closed out the inning with a strikeout to preserve the no score tie.
Yamada got her second base hit of the game in the bottom of the fifth but again Ricketts and the USA defense clamped down and didn’t allow a run.
From the plate the USA struggled to get much going against Ueno for most of the day. Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) got the first American base hit in the second but a fielder’s choice and a strikeout left the runner stranded.
Christi Orgeron (New Orleans, La.) gave Team USA life in the bottom of the sixth when she singled to get on base but two batters later Japan countered with a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
At the end of regulation neither team had managed to put a run on the board forcing the international tie breaker (ITB) rule to be implemented which meant each team would start their at-bats with a runner on second base.
In the top of the eighth with one out and their ITB runner still at second, Japan’s Yamada smashed what looked to be her third hit of the game but Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) raced to the center field wall, stretched her arm across the fence and hauled in the would-be homer for the US’s second out of the inning. Later in the at-bat, a Japan runner attempted to steal third but was thrown out by USA catcher Ashley Holcombe (Fayetteville, Ga.) to end the top half of the inning.
Chidester started the bottom of the seventh on second base for the US but Ueno retired the first three batters of the inning to send the game to the ninth still tied at zero.
In the top of the ninth, a Japan sacrifice bunt advanced their ITB runner to third with one out. Two batters later Japan’s Furuta hit an RBI single to give them a 1-0 lead.
Orgeron started the bottom half of the ninth on second base for the US and a sacrifice bunt from Moultrie moved her to third. With two outs in the inning and Orgeron still standing on third, Lauren Gibson (Pasadena, Md.) singled to right field to even the score at one and send the game into a tenth inning.
In the top of the tenth Japan advanced their ITB runner to third with a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later Misa Okubo singled to score the run and give Japan their second lead of the day.
USA needed one run in the bottom of the tenth to extend the game but couldn’t get anything going and Japan went away with the 2-1 victory.
With the loss the 2012 USA Softball season comes to a close. USA finished the World Championships with a 9-1 record, outscoring their opponents 86-6.
For the year, the young squad finished with a 23-2 record with their only losses coming to Japan, first in the Canadian Open International and then here at the ISF World Championship.
Gibson finished the season with the highest batting average for the USA at .500. As a team the USA batters hit for a .359 average on the year.
From the circle the USA pitching staff finished with a combined 0.70 ERA. Ricketts lead the team in wins with nine.
USA will now turn it’s sights toward the 2014 ISF World Championships which are scheduled for August 13-23 in the Netherlands.