OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Japan’s team experience again proved too much for a United States squad that just came together days before the eighth World Cup of Softball.
Yuki Hayashi went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Japan beat the U.S. 6-3 on Sunday night to win the gold medal in the World Cup, ending the long reign of the Americans in the international event.
Yuka Ichiguchi tripled and had two RBIs for Japan, which beat the U.S. for the second time in as many days and extended its winning streak over the Americans to three games.
Japan also beat the U.S. in the gold-medal game of last year’s World Championships.
“My message to the team was that they’re better right now,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said of Japan. “Right now, they are better. You saw the benefits of being able to train together for months and months and months. You saw the deficiencies of Team USA, with the inability to train for months and months and have five days to get together.
The six runs surrendered by the U.S. matched the second-most it had ever allowed in a major international tournament. Japan beat the U.S. 7-4 on Saturday to set that record.
The U.S. had won the last six World Cups since Japan took the inaugural event in 2005. That also was the last time the U.S. lost twice in the World Cup. The U.S. now is 42-6 all-time in the event.
Former Tennessee Lady Vol Lauren Gibson was 1-for-3 with a home run for the Americans. Former Lady Vol teammate Raven Chavanne was 0-for-3. In an 10-3 elimination victory against Puerto Rico earlier Sunday, Chavanne was 1-for-2 with a run scored.
Misato Kawano singled leading off in the first and scored on an infield single by Yukiyo Mine.
Michelle Moultrie walked and Gibson reached on an error in the bottom of the first and were in scoring position with one out, but Okamura struck out Amanda Chidester and coaxed a popup from Valerie Arioto to end the threat.
Japan blew the game open in the second against U.S. starter Jessica Moore (1-1). Natsuka Ono singled with one out and Nozomi Shimasaki followed with a bunt single. One out later, Moore intentionally walked Kawano to load the bases. Ichiguchi followed with a popup to short left field that hit the glove of the hard-charging Chidester but fell to the ground, allowing two runs to score.
Hayashi followed with a sharp single to right field and two more runs scored, making it 5-0.
Kourtney Salvarola singled and scored on a single by Moultrie in the bottom of the second and Gibson smacked a solo home run to right-center field in the third off Japan reliever Kana Nakano (2-0) to pull the U.S. within 5-2.
But Japan answered in the fifth. Ichiguchi’s shot to right field off reliever Sara Nevins eluded the diving Taylor Hoagland, resulting in a stand-up triple. Ichiguchi scored on a single by Hayashi.
“It felt like when we got a run or two, they’d come back and get a few runs,” Gibson said. “They put the ball in play and execute when they have to.”