By Paresh Dave FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Hosts Japan walked off in an extra-innings victory against Mexico on the second day of softball at the Tokyo Games, joining the United States at 2-0 in the standings. Mexico twice tied the game, including in the seventh inning when Japan’s ace Yukiko Ueno was three outs away from […]
Olympics-Softball-Japan stave off Mexico comeback in extra-innings walkoff
By Paresh Dave
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Hosts Japan walked off in an extra-innings victory against Mexico on the second day of softball at the Tokyo Games, joining the United States at 2-0 in the standings.
Mexico twice tied the game, including in the seventh inning when Japan’s ace Yukiko Ueno was three outs away from a complete game and second-straight winning start before a dropped ball by her center fielder let in a run.
Japan reliever Miu Goto managed to escape loaded bases without surrendering a run in the top of the eighth, setting team mate Mana Atsumi to then drive in Eri Yamada for the 3-2 win in the bottom half.
Yamada started at second base under extra-innings rules.
Japan’s win came after U.S. pitcher Monica Abbott dominated from the start to lead her team to a 1-0 victory over Canada.
For seven innings, Canadian batters chased pitches off the plate and failed to make contact on 116 km per hour (72 mile per hour) tosses from one of the game’s fastest throwers and a five-time Japanese league most valuable player.
Abbott returned to the same spot on the bench with toothful grin after her first six dazzling frames. She towelled sweat off her arms, placed a cold pack on the back of her neck and sipped fluids from her pink water bottle. The routine paid off.
Abbott struck out nine in all and gave up one hit. After recording the game’s final out, the 1.91-metre (6-foot, 3-inch) left-hander wrapped her arms around catcher Aubree Munro.
“For us to hold down a tough offence and let the defence work, it felt really good,” Munro said afterwards.
U.S. center fielder Haylie McCleney scored the lone run after getting on base with a bloop single.
McCleney also threw out pinch runner Joey Lye to prevent her from scoring on a Sara Groenewegen double to right center.
The second of five days of round-robin play leaves Canada and Mexico at 1-1. The top four out of six teams advance to medal games.
A few minutes of drizzle in the first innings of Japan’s game forced players to rush gear under tents. Play was not stopped.
Italy take on Australia later. The action breaks on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Games.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing Simon Cameron-Moore, Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast.)