YOKOHAMA – Returning to the venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medal game between the U.S. and Team Japan, the two countries were welcomed back to Yokohama Stadium tonight with over 12,000 fans in the stands for the 2022 Japan All-Star Series finale. Since last year’s Olympic competition, world-ranked No. 1 Team USA and No. 2 Japan have faced off four times with the record now even at two wins and two losses apiece. While the U.S. captured the most recent nail-biting victory in yesterday’s matchup, it was Japan who would walk away with a 1-0 win tonight to seal the three-game series. With the game remaining scoreless through five innings, the lone run of the game crossed the plate behind a leadoff triple and throwing error in the bottom of the sixth.
Pitching and defense were the name of the game tonight as only five hits were dispersed between the two teams with Team USA tallying three and Team Japan with two. For the Eagles, all three hits came in the top of the fifth as Maya Brady, Jada Cody and Ally Carda strung together three singles but were kept off the board behind the solid Japanese defense. Starting pitcher for Team USA, Kelly Maxwell, had a strong showing in the circle while limiting the Japan offense to just one hit through five innings before Megan Faraimo came in for relief in the top of the sixth.
The first inning set the tone of the finale contest as both squads went down in order before each putting one baserunner on in the second, but the game remained scoreless as both defenses retired the at-bats via a ground out. Met with a dominating pitching performance from Japan’s Miu Goto, the U.S. offense remained silent through the third and fourth innings before looking to light a spark in the top of the fifth. A pair of one-out singles from Brady and Cody would record the first U.S. hits of the game and put runners on first and second for Carda who dropped a base hit over the infield for what looked to be an RBI single, but a nice throw home from Japan’s Nodoka Harada in centerfield would record the second out of the inning. Working to make something happen with runners on first and second, Kayla Kowalik drilled a hard groundball to Japan third baseman, Yui Sakamoto, who fielded it cleanly for the third out of the inning with score still knotted, 0-0.
Maxwell and the U.S. defense continued taking care of business in the bottom of the frame as two fly outs and a ground out retired the side before Goto and the Japan defense returned the favor in the top of the sixth. Breaking the silence in the bottom of the inning for Team Japan was Harada who sent a hard line drive to centerfield for a leadoff triple before a pitching change brought Faraimo to the circle for the Eagles. Quickly finding her poise, the UCLA Bruin retired the first two batters she faced with a strikeout before a throwing error from Baylee Klingler at third base allowed Harada to speed home for the first – and only – run of the game.
With three outs remaining in the game, the U.S. offense remained stifled in the top of the seventh as Goto and the Japan defense sealed the 1-0 win following two strikeouts and a ground out.
Faraimo suffered the loss despite a strong relief appearance in the circle for the U.S. following Maxwell’s steady tone with four strikeouts through the first five innings.
A U.S. roster that included six rookies and just one veteran, Team USA showed out in three closely-fought battles while combining for a .219 batting average. Leading the Eagles on offense was Oklahoma’s Grace Lyons who repped the Red, White and Blue for the first time in her career with an impressive .429 batting average followed by UCF’s Jada Cody who hit .400 as a first-time Team USA member. The pitching staff of Carda, Faraimo, Maxwell and Kathryn Sandercock totaled 14 strikeouts across the three-game series with Faraimo tallying seven of those in 8.1 innings pitched.
To learn more about the 2022 U.S. Women’s National Team and the results of all 2022 events, visit USASoftball.com.