Palmdale native Rachel Garcia’s attempt to become the first athlete from Los Angeles County to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics fell short as the previously undefeated U.S. softball team lost to Japan, 2-0 Tuesday, in the gold-medal game in Yokohama, Japan.
Janie Reed, one of three Orange County players on the team, had two of the three U.S. hits, including a first-inning triple. Reed tried to score when catcher Haruka Agatsuma was unable to catch a third strike, but Agatsuma threw to pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who tagged Reed out at the plate.
Reed also singled in the sixth inning, giving the U.S. runners on first and second with one out. The next batter, Amanda Chidester, hit a line drive that deflected off the glove of third baseman Yu Yamamoto to shortstop Mana Atsumi, who made the catch, then threw to second baseman Yuka Ichiguchi, who doubled off Michelle Moultrie to end the inning.
The U.S. (5-1) was retired in order in the seventh and final inning.
The U.S. was hitless in its three at-bats with runners in scoring position. Japan was 2-for-10.
Japan (5-1) opened the scoring in the fourth, combining Yamato Fujita’s leadoff single, Saki Yamazaki’s sacrifice, Agatsuma’s ground out and Atsumi’s single for the run
Japan added a run in the fifth. Yamamoto singled off UCLA alumnus Ally Carda, who was relieved by Monica Abbott after throwing 49 pitches in 2 2/3 innings. Yamamoto moved to second on Abbott’s wild pitch and scored on Fujita’s single.
The two earned runs charged to Carda (0-1) were the first allowed by the U.S. in its six games in the tournament.
The victory avenged Japan’s 2-1 loss to the U.S. Sunday in the final game of opening-round play.
The U.S. struggled at the plate throughout the tournament. Its .216 batting average and nine runs were both fourth in the six-team field.
The U.S. and Japan also met in the gold-medal game in 2008, the most recent time softball was played in the Olympics before the Tokyo Games. Japan was a 3-1 winner, with Cat Osterman the losing pitcher.
Osterman was the starting U.S. pitcher Tuesday, allowing three hits and striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. Abbott was also a member of the 2008 team.
Ueno was among three members of Japan’s 2008 team who were also on the team for Tokyo Games. Ueno (2-0) was Tuesday’s winning pitcher, allowing two hits over six innings, striking out five and walking two.
The U.S. is ranked first by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, both sports’ international governing body, and Japan second.
Garcia’s lone Olympic appearances came as a pinch-hitter, going hitless in two at-bats. The pitcher-first baseman completed her UCLA career in 2021 by being receiving the Honda Cup as the collegiate woman athlete of the year for the second time and the Honda Sports Award winner for softball for the third time.
Reed, a 2011 graduate of El Dorado High School in Placentia, was the U.S.’ second-leading hitter, with four hits in 16 at-bats for a .250 average.
Softball is not on the program for the 2024 Paris Olympics but is expected to be for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.