FUKUSHIMA –– The U.S. Women’s National Team (WNT) evened up the Japan All-Star Series with a narrow 3-2 win over Team Japan, leveling the record 1-1 with a solo matchup remaining in the series. Lifting the Eagles to the victory was a clutch three-run home run off the bat of Baylee Klingler and dominant pitching performances from starter Megan Faraimo and reliever Ally Carda.
Faraimo and the U.S. defense showed relentless mentality in today’s contest, keeping the Japanese offense off the board through six innings before a two-run home run broke the silence in the top of the seventh. The Eagles combined for eight hits in the win behind a 2-for-3 day from Maya Brady and solo base hits from Klingler, Tiare Jennings, Grace Lyons, Jada Cody and Kayla Kowalik.
Getting the start in the circle was Faraimo who set the tone early with two K’s and a pop out in the top of the first. The U.S. put the bat on the ball in the bottom of the frame but were kept off the bases to send the Eagles back to defense. A leadoff single would look to start something for Japan in the top of the second, but a fly out and a line would record two quick outs before another single put runners at first and second. Remaining calm under pressure, Faraimo fired back to force a fly out to centerfielder Kiki Milloy for the final out of the inning. Another quiet inning from the U.S. would send Faraimo back to the circle to retire the Japan batters in order through the third, fourth and fifth frames with the score remaining knotted, 0-0.
Getting her debut in the Red, White and Blue, Cody delivered a leadoff single to kick off the bottom of the fifth followed by a double from Kowalik to put runners on second and third with no outs. The Japan defense handled the pressure with ease, recording two quick outs via a ground out and pop out to bring Klingler to the plate who lifted a clutch three-run home run over the center field fence to put the U.S. on top, 3-0. A force to be reckoned with in the circle, Faraimo continued her dominance with another 1-2-3 inning via two ground outs and a line out to keep Japan scoreless through six innings. A single from Brady was all the Eagles could manage in the bottom of the sixth as a ground out and a pair of fly outs would send the game to the top of the seventh.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Japan broke its silence in its final at-bat of the game as a leadoff single followed by a home run narrowed Team USA’s lead, 3-2, with no outs. Another single would look to continue the late-game rally, but a pitching change sent Carda to the circle to retire the first three batters she faced via a strikeout and two ground outs for the final three outs of the game to earn Team USA the 3-2 victory over Japan.
Signifying as a one-year celebration of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the U.S. and Japan will conclude the three-game series tomorrow in a 7 p.m. JT (5 a.m. CT) winner-take-all finale at Yokohama Stadium as the record sits at 1-1 through two games. Returning to the Olympic softball venues of the 2020 Olympic Games – Azuma Stadium and Yokohama Stadium – the Japan All-Star Series has provided an exciting experience for fans since its inception in 2016 where over 31,000 fans packed the Tokyo Dome while 2017 saw 15,000 fans in the stands at Yokohama Stadium.
Live stats will be available during tomorrow’s series finale, and fans at home can follow along with recaps and more at USASoftball.com.