Team USA advances to WBSC World Championship Gold Medal Game after Rachel Garcia’s walk-off single

Aug. 11, 2018, 1:56 p.m. (ET)

Chiba, Japan — On an evening that pitted world-ranked No. 1 Team USA against No. 2 Japan, the rivalry did not disappoint as the Red, White and Blue came-from-behind to record the 4-3 (eight innings) victory. Earning a spot in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Championship Gold Medal game, Team USA overcame a three-run deficit and prevailed in extra innings after a walk-off single from Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.).

 

After Japan led off with a single to start the first inning, two outs came on back-to-back strikeouts from Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) before a two-run home run put Japan on top early, 2-0. Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) doubled to left field to record the first hit for the Red, White and Blue with two outs but a fly out kept the U.S. off the board.

 

Japan came close to extending their lead in the top of the second as a single and two-out walk put a pair of runners on, but a ball hit to centerfielder Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) was fired back to catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) who made the play at the plate to get the third out. The score would hold, 2-0, in Japan’s favor after Team USA went down in order in the bottom half of the frame.

 

Japan extended their lead in the top of the third inning as a single and double quickly put runners in scoring position. Kelly Barnhill (Marietta, Ga.) entered the circle to get the first out before Keilani Ricketts (San Jose, Calif.) came in and induced a groundout, which allowed the run to score. A strikeout by Ricketts followed to close out the inning and bring up the U.S. offense. Team USA answered back as Munro led off with a home run to cut Japan’s lead, 3-1. The Red, White and Blue did not stop there as Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) singled before McCleney and Aguilar were issued walks to load the bases. Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) then grounded into a fielder’s choice with Stewart scoring the second run to make it 3-2.

 

Ricketts collected another three strikeouts through the fourth and fifth innings with the help of the U.S. defense shutting down the Japanese side. A leadoff home run by Stewart tied the ballgame in the bottom half of the fifth frame.

 

The U.S. defense kept Japan from plating any additional runs through the sixth as a fly out to Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Fla.) in foul territory stranded a pair of runners. Arioto was issued a walk to leadoff the bottom half but was kept from advancing after a groundout, fielder’s choice and strikeout.

 

Despite a pair of two-out singles, Team USA kept runners at bay in the seventh after Rachel Garcia (Palmdale, Calif.) issued a swinging strikeout with Japan called out at first on the dropped third strike. With one out, a single by Stewart, walk to McCleney and single by Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.) loaded the bases for the Red, White and Blue but a fielder’s choice caught Stewart crossing home before a fly out to right field sent the game into extra innings.

 

With the international tie-breaker (ITB) runner on second to start the eighth, Ricketts returned to pitch and despite Japan advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, a groundout and strikeout brought the U.S. back to the plate. Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) was placed at second and while back-to-back groundouts recorded the next two outs, Garcia singled to drive home Merritt and give Team USA the 4-3 win over Japan in walk-off fashion.

 

Team USA improves to 9-0 and now looks ahead toward the World Championship finale, which will take center stage tomorrow, August 12 at 7 pm JST following the bronze medal match at 2 pm JST. The top nation will claim the first of five available softball spots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with Japan qualifying automatically as the host country.

 

The Women’s National Team program has claimed 10 World Championship titles, its most recent win having been at the 2016 WBSC World Championship held in Surrey, B.C., Canada.

 

Live stats will be available through USASoftball.comwhile streaming can be accessed by WBSC broadcast and live stream partners.

 

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 69 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 202 National Federation and Associate Members in 143 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.