Team USA’s dominance in Olympic softball competition came to an end at the worst possible time Tuesday, when host Japan defeated the Americans 2-0 in the gold medal game in Yokohama, Japan.
In the loss, the top-ranked Americans had only three hits. No. 2 Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno allowed two hits in six shutout innings.
The defeat denied Team USA the opportunity to avenge its gold medal loss to Japan in the 2008 Summer Games, the last time softball was a sport at the Summer Games. Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott, both ace pitchers, were on the runner-up team in 2008.
“Sometimes it’s just not your day,” Osterman told NBC in a postgame interview. “Unfortunately, it’s not been our day twice now.
“If you told me this was the ending and I had to redo it, I would choose to do this all over again because this team has heart and fight.”
Earlier Tuesday, Canada beat Mexico 3-2 to win the bronze medal in softball.
Janie Reed got Team USA off to a strong start at the plate. The left fielder tripled in the Americans’ second at-bat, but Team USA couldn’t get her in from third base.
The Americans did not record another hit until the bottom of the sixth.
Japan broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth. Designated player Yamata Fujita led off the frame with a single to center field. Japan followed with a sacrifice bunt and a ground out to move Fujita to third base.
Shortstop Mana Atsumi plated Fujita with an RBI single in the fifth at-bat of the inning to give Japan a 1-0 lead. Ueno retired the Americans in order in the bottom of the fourth.
Fujita drove in third baseman Yu Yamamoto with an RBI single in the top of the fifth for the final run of the game. Japan’s offense threatened again in the top of the sixth, but Team USA escaped the half-inning unscathed.
Team USA designated player Michelle Moultrie then led off the bottom of the sixth with single to left field. She advanced to second base on a Reed single two at-bats later. Right fielder Amanda Chidester then lined out to the shortstop for the final out of the inning.
Ueno returned to the game in the seventh inning to pitch. In order to end the game, she retired Team USA’s first baseman Valerie Arioto, second baseman Ali Aguilar, and shortstop Delaney Spaulding.
Reed was 2 for 3 in the defeat. In two innings, Osterman allowed two hits and one walk. In 2 2/3 innings, fellow pitcher Ally Carda allowed three hits and two runs. Abbott allowed three hits in two and a third innings.
Japan’s Fujita went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. In the win, Atsumi went 1 for 1 with an RBI and a walk.
In the six-team tournament, Team USA went undefeated in round-robin play, going 5-0. On Monday in Yokohama, it finished the first round with a 2-1 victory over Japan (4-1).
Softball and baseball, which also returned to the Olympic sports lineup for the first time since 2008, are not expected to be a part of the 2024 Summer Games program.