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USA Softball Defeats Japan, Takes Gold At International Cup

(Photo courtesy of USA Softball)

COLUMBUS, Ga. — When the United States took the field against Japan on Sunday at South Commons Softball Complex, it marked the start of the rematch softball fans were hoping for.

After a 3–2 loss to Japan on Friday during round-robin action, the Americans were determined not to let history repeat itself in the International Cup final. And their determination paid off, as they came from behind to take down the Japanese, 2–1, in the tournament's championship game. The win granted Team USA the gold medal at the International Cup for the second straight year.

"It's no secret, we had struggled to put runs up on the board against Japan," Team USA starter Cat Osterman told reporters after the game. "To be able to come from behind and walk away with that win was huge."

In the game's second inning, Japan's Yu Yamamoto opened the scoring with a solo home run to left field off of Osterman, who was relieved by Ally Carda in the fourth. Despite threatening on offense at several points throughout the game—and most seriously in the fifth when a one-out single from Haylie McCleney, a walk to Kelsey Stewart and a hit-by-pitch of Valerie Arioto loaded the bases—the Japanese held their narrow lead over the Americans for much of the game. 

But Team USA would finally break through in the bottom of the sixth. A lead-off walk to Ali Aguilar and an infield single from Michelle Moultrie set the stage for Delaney Spaulding, who delivered a RBI single up the middle to tie the game at one. A walk to pinch hitter Sahvanna Jaquish followed, which loaded the bases for McCleney, who then delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Moultrie and gave the Americans a 2–1 lead.

"With the bases loaded and less than two outs with Michelle Moultrie at third base, you don't have to do a lot," McCleney told reporters after Team USA's title-clinching win. "We just all had a sense of belief. We had all the momentum on our side."

Needing just three outs for the win, Monica Abbott entered the game in the top of the seventh to close things out for Team USA against Japan. Abbott sat the Japanese down in order to protect the comeback and secure the win for the Americans.

"The amount of fun and the amount of commitment and confidence we have in each other, it's really high," Osterman added.

The American pitching staff held down a strong Japanese offense on Sunday, as Japan recorded only two hits in the game. Carda earned the win in the circle after allowing just one hit and no runs through three innings of relief work.

Team USA will next take the field on July 20 for an exhibition series in Lafayette, La. in preparation for the 2019 Pan American Games, which will begin in Lima, Peru on August 4.

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