Team USA falls to Japan in Gold Medal final at Japan Cup
Takasaki City, Japan — The 2017 season for the USA Softball Women’s National Team (WNT) came to a disappointing end as the U.S. suffered a walk-off, 5-4 loss to Japan in the Gold Medal finale at the 2017 Japan Cup.
The U.S. vs Japan rivalry lived up to the hype as both sides scored in the first inning. After Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) was hit by a pitch with one out, Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) doubled with a line drive to right field. Stewart utilized her wheels to scoot around the base paths and score from first, giving Team USA an early 1-0 edge. That lead would not last long as a solo home run off U.S. starter Danielle O’Toole (Upland, Calif.) tied the game at one run each.
That score would hold until the top of the fifth inning when the U.S. would take the lead. A leadoff single from Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) put a runner on base for the Red, White and Blue but a strikeout would keep her at first. Spaulding would advance to second base on a ground out from Janie Takeda (Placentia, Calif.) and crossed the plate after Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) doubled with a line drive to the left/center gap.
The U.S. added to their lead in the top of the sixth inning with a pair of runs. Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) singled with one out before Morgan Zerkle (Milton, W. Va.) entered as a pinch runner. Zerkle beat out a fielder’s choice on a ground ball from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) to put two on and a walk to Kasey Cooper (Dothan, Ala.) loaded the bases. A strikeout would keep the runners put before Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) singled to plate Zerkle and Takeda was hit by a pitch to extend the U.S. lead to 4-1.
A leadoff walk to Japan in the bottom of the sixth resulted in a pitching change for Team USA as Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) entered in relief for O’Toole. The U.S. defense then played textbook softball with a double play and a groundout to Spaulding at shortstop to keep the three-run lead.
The U.S. would be retired in the top of the seventh without adding anything to their lead to bring Japan to their final at-bat. A leadoff single brought Delanie Gourley (Lakeside, Calif.) to the circle and after issuing a walk Jessica Moore (Sutter, Calif.) subbed in for Gourley. Moore issued a strikeout to record the first out of the inning, but an infield single loaded the bases and O’Toole re-entered the circle.
A wild pitch would allow a run to cross the plate for Japan and an intentional walk would once again load the bases with one out. A single cut the lead to just one run to result in the fourth pitching change of the inning for Team USA as Kelly Barnhill (Marietta, Ga.) took to the circle. A walk tied up the ballgame before a sac fly resulted in Japan taking the 5-4, walk-off win.
The Japan Cup marked the end of the 2017 season for the Women’s National Team, who finished the summer with a 22-5 record while claiming the Gold at the Pan American Championship. As a team, the U.S. finished the summer with a .366 batting average while outscoring opponents 193-49. McCleney led the offense for the U.S., amassing a .500 (30-for-60) batting average while Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.) and Arioto each hit six home runs and Chidester led with 27 RBI. For the pitching staff, Barnhill issued 63 strikeouts while finishing the season with a 0.91 ERA through 38.2 innings in the circle. Moore led the staff with an 7-1 record while fanning 22 batters in 36.1 innings pitched.
About USA Softball
USA Softball is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit organization headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is designated as the National Governing Body (NGB) of Softball in the United States and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. One of the nation’s largest sports organizations, USA Softball sanctions competition in every state through a network of 70 local associations and has grown from a few hundred teams in the early days to over 150,000 teams today, representing a membership of more than 2 million. USA Softball is dedicated to providing people of all ages the opportunity to play the game they love at a variety of levels by offering recreational, league, tournament and competitive play for fast pitch, slow pitch and modified pitch. USA Softball annually conducts thousands of tournaments throughout the country including over 100 National Championships. The USA Softball umpire program is among the nation’s largest and are widely known as the best trained umpires in the game.
As the NGB for the sport of softball, USA Softball is responsible for training, equipping and promoting the six USA Softball National Teams that compete in events such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, World Championships and other international and domestic events. For more information on USA Softball, including its founding and history as the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), please visit, www.USASoftball.com.