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Tokyo Olympics Softball: Five Takeaways From Day 5

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(Photo by KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

The medal round is set, with very few surprises. The United States and Japan, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively, will meet in a gold medal game 13 years in the making, while North American rivals Canada and Mexico will battle for the bronze.

Here are five things we learned from the fifth day of Olympic softball action.

Five wins with a total of nine runs. It wasn’t pretty, but Team USA kept getting it done. Not by nine runs. With nine runs. The final scores in the Americans’ perfect run in round robin play: 2-0, 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 2-1. The last of those victories was a gold medal game preview against Japan, in which Team USA trailed from the first inning until the sixth. Valerie Arioto drove in the tying run with a single through the left side, and Kelsey Stewart walked it off an inning later with a towering home run that just cleared the fence in right field. It was the Americans’ first home run of the Olympics and gave Monica Abbott, who pitched the seventh inning in relief, her third win of the Games.

Italy deserved better. With a roster that included former U.S. college stars like Erika Piancastelli, Emily Carosone and Andrea Filler, the Italians appeared to have a lineup that could compete with the world’s best pitchers. That didn’t turn out to be the case. Italy finished the Olympics 0-5 and scored just one run in the Games. That run came in the Italians’ final game against Canada on an RBI single by Piancastelli, but it was nowhere near enough as the Canadians scored six runs in the last two innings to win 8-1. Italy was competitive in its first two games against the United States and Australia, but the European champions couldn’t keep up with the rest of the competition.

Canada has some serious firepower. The Canadians scored 19 runs in round robin play, more than anyone else in the tournament. They punctuated the opening round with an 8-1, run-rule win over Italy, getting production from up and down the lineup. Jen Gilbert opened the scoring with a second-inning home run, Larissa Franklin drove in three runs and Victoria Hayward had a big two-run double to help break the game open. Danielle Lawrie and Lauren Regula each pitched three innings, with Regula not allowing a hit to earn the win. Canada will take on Mexico for the bronze medal, a team it defeated 4-0 in its first game of the Olympics.

Mexico fought back from an 0-3 start to reach the medal round. Mexico, making its Olympics debut, had the most front-loaded schedule of any team at the Games, opening with Canada, Japan and the United States. After dropping close contests to the Japanese and the Americans, the Mexicans had no more room for error. And they rebounded in a big way. Dallas Escobedo threw a one-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over Italy and was backed by long balls from Sydney Romero, Anissa Urtez and Brittany Cervantes. Mexico then defeated Australia 4-1 to reach the bronze medal game, with Escobedo again leading the way. Tori Vidales had a pair of RBI hits, and Urtez and Cervantes also posted multi-hit games.

Weather could become an issue in the medal round. A tropical storm is expected to hit the Tokyo area on Tuesday morning, and rowing and archery events have already been rescheduled. The storm was initially forecast as a typhoon but was later downgraded. Still, Yokohama, which is part of greater Tokyo, could see heavy rain, wind and thunderstorms throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday.

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