Team USA used three pitchers in its seven innings against Japan, but ultimately the result was still a 7-4 loss for the Americans at the World Cup of Softball on Saturday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. For the first time all weekend, Team USA allowed an opponent to score.
Team USA allowed Japan to score three runs in both the first and fourth innings, and a final score in the sixth put the game completely out of reach.
Even though Team USA was unable to overcome the deficit, coach Ken Eriksen was still pleased to see his team's resilience against one of the world's best pitchers.
“I'm pretty excited actually the way we responded tonight,” Eriksen said. “Our pitching was a little awry. Our pitching was very young tonight, in respect of the nature of how they approached the hitters and so forth. But the way our kids responded and obviously showed they were not overmatched.”
Just like the last time these two teams faced off, Japan would once again walk away with the win. In the 2012 International Softball Federation Women's World Championship, Japan would win a 2-1, 10-inning battle.
Aimee Creger of the University of Tulsa and Mustang High would step in the circle first for Team USA. Misato Kawano, Japan's leadoff batter, would break Team USA's two-game shutout streak with a home run to deep center field.
Yukiyo Mine and Misa Okubo would then single off Creger later on, and that's when Eriksen had Cheridan Hawkins step in. The decision to pull Creger seemed early, but Eriksen said the plan had long been in place for a situation like that.
“It was important to see how Creger, in a hometown crowd, could do against Japan, and then Cheridan matches up really well with the left-handed batters,” Eriksen said. “She got two pitches that got away from her, but what she did when she threw them better, she did very, very well.
“If you got the lefties coming up in that situation, and Creger had already given up a home run to a lefty, the match up shows me lefty, lefty. … The decision wasn't very difficult. Those decisions were made way in advance of coming out on the ball field … that's my job as a coach is to be prepared.”