Kazuhide Kudo tirelessly waved his Japanese flag as his home country defeated Team USA 6-3 in the World Cup of Softball championship game Sunday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Kudo, a Yamagata, Japan, native and Oklahoma City University student, couldn't miss the opportunity to see his team play.
And it didn't disappoint. Just like Kudo, the Japanese national team took few breaks after their second day, 2-1 loss to Canada, and defeated the Americans twice en route to their first World Cup of Softball championship,
Team USA, which had to come back to defeat Puerto Rico 10-3 earlier Sunday, allowed 12 hits in its loss to Japan.
“Even though we knew there would be a different pitcher, her strategy was the same ... put the bat on the ball and make something happen, both yesterday and today, and that's what she thinks they did very well,” Reika Utsugi said through an interpreter.
After allowing a run in the first inning, Team USA looked to keep things close in the second.
Japan had different plans, however. Yuka Ichiguchi sent a pop up to left field that Rhea Taylor tracked down on the line. But what looked like a sure out, slipped out of her glove and fell harmlessly to the ground.
Natsuko Ono and Nozomi Shimasaki had already started jogging when the ball was popped up, but they broke into a sprint when their third base coach signaled them head home. Ono and Shimasaki would put Japan up, 3-0.
“They create their own luck,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said. “You've got to tip your hat to them. They put the ball into play, and they don't try to do too much.
“Did you see any hard shots off the walls tonight? No you don't. But you know they put the ball in play, they find their holes, they're under control, and we got to find a way to exploit their off balance swings.”
Said Taylor of the pop up: “I had it in my glove, I just didn't have a tight enough squeeze on it, and it just fell out.”
During the play, Misato Kawano made a dash of her own, but to try and reach third base.
Raven Chavanne appeared to catch Kawano when she slid into the bag, but the third base umpire ruled Kawano safe.
Yuki Hayashi later drove a two-run single into deep right field to give Japan a 5-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
After hitting two home runs in the afternoon game against Puerto Rico, Amber Freeman did not suit up for Team USA's championship game.
She turned her right ankle when she was rounding first base, and instead of risking further injury was held out of the evening game.
Eriksen said when he saw Freeman stop on second base, he was two seconds away from stepping out to help her make it to home. That was until two members of the Puerto Rican national team jogged over to Freeman and helped her finish rounding the bases.