Japan beats Canada to book softball final clash against U.S.

Defending champion Japan booked its spot in the Olympic softball gold medal game against the United States with a 1-0 group stage win over Canada on Sunday.

Japan captain Eri Yamada singled in the winning run with one out and the bases-loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift Japan to a 4-0 record and earn a spot in Tuesday’s final.

The U.S., winner of softball’s first three Olympic gold medals before its loss to Japan in the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medal game, improved to 4-0 with a 2-1 tiebreak win over Australia.

Japan’s ace pitcher, Yukiko Ueno pitched out of a fifth-inning jam after Jenn Salling’s leadoff double and a sacrifice put the potential first run on third with one out. Ueno worked six innings with four strikeouts before left-handed strikeout machine Miu Goto took over from the seventh at Yokohama Stadium.

The hosts loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with one out but a lineout and a routine fly kept the Canadians alive. In the eighth, Canada’s tie-break rule runner that began the inning on second base never got to third as Goto struck out the side. Goto fanned six in two scoreless innings of relief.

Japan and the United States will play each other on Monday morning in the teams’ final group stage game before their final rematch on Tuesday.

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