U.S. softball survives in extra innings to head to gold-medal game

America's softball team passed its toughest test against Japan at Fentai Field on a Beijing morning, winning 4-1 in nine innings. The score was tied at zero heading into the ninth when Caitlin Lower smacked a single up the middle, sending Natasha Watley home. Watley was on second base due to international tiebreaker rules. After a Jessica Mendoza walk, Crystl Bustos hit a home run to the left field bleachers, making the score 4-0. Japan came back with a single run, which prompted U.S. coach Mike Candrea to change pitchers. Monica Abbott, who had thrown eight innings and gave up just three hits, was replaced with Cat Osterman, who made quick work of the Japanese batters to end the game.

The American team has so many tools, whether at the plate, on the field or while running the bases. Those tools, however, are not the only thing that makes the Americans such a dominant force. The team plays so smart and patiently, so when up against an opponent who actually can test them, the U.S. can patiently wear them down and wait for the opponent to make an error. For example, at the plate, even batters who were striking out were working their pitch counts and fouling several balls to tire the Japanese pitcher.

The U.S has clinched a spot in the gold medal game, and will play the winner of games between Japan, Canada and Australia, teams who have all lost to the U.S.

UPDATE: Australia defeated Canada, so Japan and Australia are playing right now for the chance to play the U.S. in the gold medal game.

SECOND UPDATE: Japan won 4-3 in 12 innings, so they will head to the gold medal game to face the U.S. for the third time in these Olympics.

Photo via Getty Images

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