The U.S. Olympic softball team, which includes three players from Orange County and one from Los Angeles County, will bat as the home team when it faces Japan in the gold medal game Tuesday thanks to a 2-1 victory over Japan Sunday to conclude opening round play.
Kelsey Stewart homered leading off the bottom of the seventh and final inning to break a tie at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. The home run was the first for the U.S. in its five games in the tournament, all victories.
Janie Reed from Placentia contributed to the other U.S. run, with her sixth-inning single advancing Haylie McCleney, who had singled with one out for the first U.S. hit, to second. McCleney moved to third when Amanda Chidester grounded into a force out. McCleney scored on Valerie Arioto’s two-out single.
Japan (4-1) combined an error by Stewart, the U.S. third baseman, a sacrifice bunt, a single and a two-out passed ball by catcher Aubree Munro from Brea for its run in the first inning.
Both the U.S. and Japan were assured of playing in the gold medal game entering Sunday’s play.
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 is among two players from the 2008 U.S. team who are also members of the team for the Tokyo Games, along with fellow pitcher Monica Abbott.
Abbott pitched a perfect seventh inning Sunday with one strikeout for the victory, improving her record in the 2021 tournament to 3-0.
Japan’s 15-player roster includes three members of the 2008 team — catcher Yukiyo Mine, pitcher Yukiko Ueno and outfielder Eri Yamada.
The U.S. is ranked first by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, both sports’ international governing body, and Japan second. Tuesday’s game from Yokohama Baseball Stadium will be televised live by cable’s NBC Sports Network beginning at 4 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.