Tokyo 2020 July 23-Aug 8

Japan's win the cherry on Ueno's birthday cake

Left: Japan's softball players rallying before their game against Mexico yesterday. The hosts won 3-2 in extra innings to give veteran Yukiko Ueno (above) a special 39th birthday present.
Above: Japan's softball players rallying before their game against Mexico yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Left: Japan's softball players rallying before their game against Mexico yesterday. The hosts won 3-2 in extra innings to give veteran Yukiko Ueno (above) a special 39th birthday present.
The hosts won 3-2 in extra innings to give veteran Yukiko Ueno (above) a special 39th birthday present.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FUKUSHIMA • Hosts Japan yesterday earned an extra-innings victory against Mexico on their ace Yukiko Ueno's 39th birthday and the second day of women's softball at the Tokyo Games, joining the United States at two wins apiece atop the standings.

Australia later defeated Italy 1-0, handing their opponents, who have yet to score a run in the tournament, a second straight defeat. Australia and Canada stand at one win and one defeat. The top four after five round-robin games will advance to medal games.

A third of Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium's lights were needed late in the Australia game as the grey skies did not let up.

In the sixth inning of the 1-0 loss to Australia, Italy's Giulia Longhi drummed two balls against a metal bench on the sidelines of the spectator-less stadium.

Longhi said she hoped the beat would rouse a rally as it has for the team before. It was not to be, however, and a pair of groundouts left a runner stranded at second base.

Mexico, who have also suffered two losses in as many games here, twice tied Japan, including in the seventh inning when a dropped ball by Japan's centre-fielder let in a run and kept their ace Ueno from a complete game and second-straight winning start.

But Japan reliever Miu Goto escaped loaded bases in the top of the eighth, leaving her teammate Mana Atsumi to drive in Eri Yamada, who started at second base under extra-innings rules, for a 3-2 walk-off win.

Goto said she wanted to deliver Ueno, on her 39th birthday, the perfect gift by helping to shut down Mexico, while slugger Yamato Fujita described a homer she hit as a "present" for the veteran.

In the earlier game, US pitcher Monica Abbott dominated Canada from the start. For seven innings, Canadian batters chased pitches off the plate and failed to make contact on 116kmh tosses from one of the game's fastest throwers and the five-time Japanese League Most Valuable Player.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2021, with the headline 'Japan's win the cherry on Ueno's birthday cake'. Subscribe