Japanese celebrate their victory after the match
The Japanese softball team stunned three-time world champions the United States 3-1 to clinch the gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games on Thursday.
The game was a replay of the gold medal face-off from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games when the U.S. outscored Japan 2-1 in eight innings, yet the clash tonight told a different story.
The Japanese jumped in front early in the top of the third inning when Ayumi Karino's single put the third-based Masumi Mishina across the home plate for the first run.
Ueno Yokiko, Japan's 26-year-old ace pitcher who hurls at a speed above 105 km per hour, succeeded to suppress the American's batters despite she was forced to pitch 21 innings in two games on Wednesday.
The boyish short-haired hurler worked seven complete innings, striking out five batters and allowing five hits.
With their strong-minded hurler's lead, Japanese hot-batting hitters took pains to seize the chance and edged the lead to 2-0 in the fourth inining. A powerful swing of Eri Yamada deliverd a brilliant solo homer to boost the Japanese confidence to grab their first ever gold medal.
Crystl Bustos, American's leading slugger who was the Olympic holder with 10 home runs up to now, added the 11th homer to her list in the bottom fourth. The suntanned bull-like batter sent a knee-hight pitch from previously untouchable Ueno soaring up into the right field stands to narrowe the gap to 2-1.
The Japanese rallied to achieve the decisive run in the seventh inning, widening the lead to 3-1 and pushing the Americans to the verge of the cliff.
The desperate Americans failed to make miracles in the closing inning, losing their first Olympic gold medal since softball made a debut show at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
The game was played in a ceaseless mizzling night when more than 5,000 fanatic spectators enjoyed the Olympic softball's last show in raincoats as the sport was voted out of the 2012 London Games.
(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)