Olympic Softball: Stewart's walk-off HR lifts US over Japan 2-1 for 5-0 record

  • United States' Kelsey Stewart (7) celebrates her game winning home run against Japan as she runs behind Japan pitcher Yamato Fujita (16) in the seventh inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • United States' Kelsey Stewart (7) celebrates her game winning home run against Japan in the seventh inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • United States' Kelsey Stewart (7) is greeted at the plate by her teammates following her game winning home run against Japan in the seventh inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • Japan's Yuka Ichiguchi (4) jumps but can't get to the home run ball hit by United States' Kelsey Stewart to win the game in the seventh inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • The Japan team talks after a loss to the United States in a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • United States' Monica Abbott pitches in the seventh inning of a softball game against Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • Japan's Yu Yamamoto (5) reaches over a wall for a foul ball hit by United States' Amanda Chidester in the sixth inning of a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • Japan's Nodoka Harada attempts a bunt but grounds out in the fifth inning of a softball game against the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Sue Ogrocki

  • Canada's Danielle Lawrie pitches during a softball game against Italy at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Italy's Greta Cecchetti pitches during a softball game against Canada at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Canada's Kelsey Harshman, left, and Jennifer Gilbert collide while trying to catch a pop up during a softball game against Italy at Yokohama Baseball Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • The sky takes on color as the sun sets before a softball game between Australia and Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Members of team Australia warm up before a a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Mexico's Sashel Palacios bunts during a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Kaia Parnaby pitches during a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Leigh Godfrey catches a fly out during a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Kaia Parnaby pitches during the first inning a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Kaia Parnaby warms up ahead of a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Kaia Parnaby reacts after a pitch during a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Mexico's Dallas Escobedo, left, and Danielle O'Toole embrace after a softball game against Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. Mexico won 4-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Members of team Mexico wave to members of team Australia after a softball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. Mexico won 4-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Mexico's Dallas Escobedo, center, and Sydney Romero meet after a softball game against Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. Mexico won 4-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Jade Wall runs the bases after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Michelle Cox (47) and Taylah Tsitsikronis, right, cheer for Jade Wall (1) as she rounds the basses after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Ellen Roberts pitches during a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Taylah Tsitsikronis reacts after a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. Mexico won 4-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

  • Australia's Rachel Lack, left, and Belinda White react after a softball game against Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. Mexico won 4-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

AP Baseball Writer
Published: 7/26/2021 10:40:48 AM
Modified: 7/26/2021 10:40:51 AM

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Kelsey Stewart has a knack for walk-off hits in Japan.

Stewart hit a game-ending home run leading off the seventh inning, and the United States rallied late to beat Japan 2-1 Monday and win the Olympic softball group stage — and with it the right to bat last in the gold medal game.

“It’s like you dream about when you’re a little kid, about hitting a home run at the Olympics, let alone a walk-off,” Stewart said.

In August 2018, Stewart’s single capped a three-run 10th inning off Japan ace Yukiko Ueno that gave the U.S. a 7-6 win at the Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, earning the Olympic berth.

She had been 1 for 12 with no RBIs at the Olympics before she drove the 98th pitch from Yamato Fujita (0-1) for the first U.S. home run of the tournament. Yuka Ichiguchi climbed the right field wall trying for a spectacular grab.

“She was starting to wear down because she had so many pitches on her arm,” Stewart said.

American players ran onto the field to celebrate their second straight walk-off win.

“I knew she was strong,” Fujita said through an interpreter, remembering Stewart from 2018. “I think the ball was too easy for her.”

Trying to bounce back from their 3-1 loss to Japan in the 2008 gold medal game, the Americans finished the group stage 5-0 while Japan dropped to 4-1.

Stewart’s first-inning error had led to Japan’s run. She bobbled Saku Yamazaki’s leadoff grounder to third, and following a sacrifice and Hitomii Kawabata’s single, Yamazaki scored on Aubree Munro’s passed ball.

Japan rested Yukiko Ueno, the 39-year-old who beat the U.S. in the 2008 gold medal game started by Cat Osterman, and Miu Goto. Fujita and catcher Yukiyo Mine lost track of the outs, starting to run off the field after Michelle Moultrie struck out for the second out of the third.

Fujita, a 30-year-old right-hander who had pitched just once before in the tournament, didn’t allow a hit until Haylie McCleney (an Olympic-best 9 for 14) singled to left leading off the sixth.

Janie Reed, whose husband, Jake, was claimed by Tampa Bay off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in the day, reached on an infield hit with a bouncer to shortstop for just her second hit in 13 at-bats, and Valerie Arioto hit a two-out RBI single.

Ally Carda, a 28-year-old right-hander, allowed an unearned run and four hits over 5 1/3 innings in her Olympic mound debut, striking out nine and walking none.

Monica Abbott and Osterman had combined to throw all 29 innings in the first four games.

“Ally Carda has had tremendous success against them,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said of Japan. “Ally was scheduled for this game as soon as the Olympic team was named, because we knew the schedule. ... If we had to win this game to get into the gold medal game, Ally Carda was still going to get the ball.”

Osterman, a 38-year-old lefty, faced two lefties in the sixth and struck out both.

Abbott (3-0) pitched a perfect seventh, adding to two complete game wins and two saves.

“It was a great opportunity for us to be able to experience all three pitchers today before the gold medal game tomorrow,” Japan coach Reika Utsugi said through an interpreter.

A 6-foot-3 lanky left-hander, Abbott is likely to start the gold medal game scheduled for Tuesday, a day before her 36th birthday. Rain is in the forecast.

“I wouldn’t doubt that you might see four pitchers tomorrow,” Eriksen said.

CANADA 8, ITALY 1

Danielle Lawrie and Lauren Regula, sisters of former Major League Baseball players, combined on a four-hitter in a game shortened to six innings under a rout rule.

Larissa Franklin drove in three runs for Canada (3-2), which headed to a bronze medal game against Mexico.

Lawrie, the 34-year-old sister of former major leaguer Brett Lawrie, allowed an unearned run and four hits in three innings. Regula (1-0), the 39-year-old sister of retired All-Star Jason Bay, struck out five in three hitless innings.

Jen Gilbert, who had been hitless in seven at-bats, had a go-ahead home run over the center-field cameras in the second. Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the 29-year-old Gilbert lives in Denton, Texas.

Franklin hit an RBI double in the third, and errors by shortstop Joey Lye and reliever Alexia Lacatena led to three unearned runs in the fifth, which included Franklin’s first sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Jenn Salling, who is 7 for 12.

Victoria Hayward hit a two-run double in the sixth and Franklin followed with another sacrifice fly.

Greta Cecchetti (0-4) allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits in four innings for Italy (0-5), which was outscored 21-1.

Erika Piancastelli caused an Italian team celebration when her second hit, an RBI single in the third, drove in the country’s first Olympic run.

MEXICO 4, AUSTRALIA 1

Dallas Escobedo (2-2) pitched a five-hitter, a day after the 29-year-old right-hander beat Italy with a one-hit shutout, and Mexico (2-3) advanced with a tournament-high 11 hits.

Brittany Cervantes singled in the second and scored when Suzannah Brookshire lined the ball down the left-field line and it rebounded off the low fence in foul territory, bouncing past Jade Wall. Brookshire sped to third for a triple and scored on Victoria Vidales’ single.

Vidales chased starter Kaia Parnaby (1-2) with an RBI double in the fourth. Gabrielle Plain’s wild pitch advanced Vidales, and Chelsea Gonzalez singled for a 4-0 lead.

Wall hit the first home run of the tournament for Australia (1-4) in the sixth.


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