CLEARWATER, Fla. — In a record-setting performance, the USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team (JWNT) became back-to-back World Champions after defeating Japan 13-4 to take home the Gold Medal at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Junior Women's World Championship. The JWNT blasted three home runs in the win, showing a relentless attitude at the plate after trailing by one run until a five-run fifth inning gave the U.S. all the ammunition they would need.
“For them to start here in January (Junior Women’s National Team tryouts) and end here in July, it’s great to come full circle,” said Head Coach Laura Berg. “I am proud of how they came together. Although the team was chosen in January, we didn’t start practicing together until June. Two months isn’t a lot of time but it was like they knew each other and knew what they were capable of doing. They all knew there was one goal and that was winning gold.”
Hannah Adams (Hoschton, Ga.) was issued a walk to lead off the top of the first inning, while a single from Sis Bates (Ceres, Calif.) would put two runners on for the U.S. Bubba Nickles (Merced, Calif.) then stepped up to the plate and went deep with a three-run home run to put the Red, White and Blue up, 3-0. With the blast, Nickles broke the WBSC Junior Women's World Championship record for home runs with her sixth. Japan would answer back with three runs of their own off a two RBI double by Eri Shimoyama and RBI single by Hiroyo Hattori to tie the ballgame.
Singles from Alissa Dalton (Cypress, Texas) and Elissa Brown (Eclectic, Ala.) came in the top of the second but both would be stranded after the U.S. was unable to score. Japan would jump ahead in the bottom half of the frame after a single from Reina Matsumoto brought home Miyu Miyamoto, while Fujimoto was caught at home on a bullet throw by Adams in center field to Dejah Mulipola (Garden Grove, Calif.) to keep the score, 4-3.
Natalie Lugo (West Covina, Calif.) would enter in relief for Holly Azevedo (San Jose, Calif.) in the bottom of the third inning. Despite Japan loading the bases after a lead-off single from Shimoyama, Ayaka Kono was hit-by-pitch and a two-out single from Shiho Suto, the Red, White and Blue stayed committed and worked out of the jam after a line out to Brown ended Japan’s chances of scoring additional runs.
Trailing 4-3 after four innings, the U.S. would regain the lead with a huge five-run inning in the fifth. Adams led off with a single to center field before a two-out home run by Baylee Klingler (Houston, Texas) made it 5-4. Lou Allan (Hesperia, Calif.) and Jessica Harper (Stevenson Ranch, Calif.) followed with a pair of singles before coming home off a three-run shot by Dalton, extending the U.S. lead to 8-4. Japan would be retired in order in the bottom of the fifth after a strikeout and a pair of lineouts to Bates at second and Lugo in the circle.
Nickles went on to break another JWWC record in the top of the sixth inning after picking up her 29th RBI of the WBSC Junior Women's World Championship after bringing home Adams and Bates on a two RBI double to center field to make it 10-4. Japan was retired in order for the third straight inning after Lugo issued a pair of strikeouts and a groundout went Klingler’s way to catch the runner at first.
Holding a 10-4 lead, the U.S. would not let up and kept the momentum to push another three runs across the plate. After a single by Dalton, Brown was hit by a pitch but stayed in the game before both advanced on a walk to Adams. The next three U.S. batters would make the most of their at-bat, with Bates drilling a line drive to shortstop Matsumoto to plate Dalton before a RBI single from Nickles (her 30th) plated Brown and to finish it off, a RBI single by Klingler brought home Adams, giving the Red, White and Blue a sizeable 13-4 lead over Japan. That proved to be enough for the USA Softball JWNT as Japan grounded into a fielder’s choice, struck out and ended their at-bat on a groundout to Nickles, handing the Red, White and Blue a 13-4 victory.
Lugo earned the win in the circle for the U.S., pitching five innings with five strikeouts and allowing no runs on four hits, while Azevedo tossed two innings and recorded one strikeout with five hits and four runs allowed. In addition to Nickles home run and RBI record, she also set a batting average (.690), going 20-for-29. As a team, the USA Softball JWNT broke the JWWC home runs record with 15.
“It’s not just about coming out and staying strong, but adjusting to whatever good teams, like Japan, bring our way,” said Nickles. “To play a sport since I’ve played since I was little was really awesome and shows that the love of the game is all across the world. (Having softball back in the Olympics) is a huge milestone and I really feel like this is going to motivate so many more girls in the U.S. to play international, in the 2020 Olympics and beyond.”
“I think we adjusted really well,” said Klingler. “When we would get knocked down, we got right back up and kept going defensively and offensively. Japan is a very good team but it’s the game of softball. We all put in long hours all for this moment right here and we pulled through.”
With the win, the USA Softball JWNT claims its second-straight WBSC Junior Women’s World Championship title. Team USA will have some time off before ending the season competing at the Major League Baseball (MLB) RBI World Series in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 10. Follow along with Team USA all year long at USASoftball.com.
About USA Softball
USA Softball is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit organization headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is designated as the National Governing Body (NGB) of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 70 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 150,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2 million. USA Softball is dedicated to providing people of all ages the opportunity to play the game they love at a variety of levels by offering recreational, league, tournament and competitive play for fast pitch, slow pitch and modified pitch. USA Softball annually conducts thousands of tournaments throughout the country including over 100 National Championships. The USA Softball umpire program is among the nation’s largest and are widely known as the best trained umpires in the game.
As the NGB for the sport of softball, USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, World Championships and other international and domestic events. For more information on USA Softball, including its founding and history as the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), please visit, www.USASoftball.com.
About the World Baseball Softball Confederation
Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland -- the Olympic Capital -- the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is the world governing body for baseball and softball. WBSC has 213 National Federation and Associate Members in 142 countries and territories across Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania, which represent a united baseball/softball sports movement that encompasses over 65 million athletes and attracts approximately 150 million fans to stadiums worldwide annually.
The WBSC governs all international competitions involving official National Teams. The WBSC oversees the Softball World Championships (Men, Women, U-19 Men, and U-19 Women), Premier12, World Baseball Classic, and Baseball World Cups (U-12, U-15, U-18, U-23 and Women's).
For more information, visit: www.wbsc.org