OKLAHOMA CITY —
That set up Yuki Hayachi, who followed up with a double to right field to score two more and push the lead to 5-0.
The United States added one in the bottom half of the inning as well as another in the third on a Gibson home run, but the Japanese nullified several American scoring opportunities throughout the game with a series of highlight-reel defensive plays to shut the door.
“They’re a good team, that’s for sure,” Gibson said. “Japan deserved to win. But we’re going to continue to improve. This is really only our second week together, if that, and we’re all getting used to playing with each other.”
The Americans would not have even been in the title game if not for a come-from-behind win over Puerto Rico in the day’s first game. Amber Freeman led the team back in what turned into a 10-3, run-rule victory after they fell behind 3-0 in the first inning.
Freeman lifted two deep home runs in the game to finish with four RBIs, but her most memorable moment came when she was rounding the bases on the second home run.
She tripped awkwardly on first base and had trouble rounding the bases until a pair of Puerto Rico players — Galis Lozada and Dayanira Diaz — put their arms around her and helped her make it to home plate.
“That might have been the highlight of my coaching career,” said U.S. coach Ken Eriksen, who is also the head coach at South Florida. “I was fighting back tears, to tell you the truth. What a spontaneous class act by the entire Puerto Rican program.”
Puerto Rico’s players said they didn’t think the act was anything out of the ordinary, a fact that Eriksen said underscored the quality of the people involved in softball.
“Great people don’t ever think it’s a big deal, but it is,” he said. “This is why this game needs to be back in the Olympics in 2020.”
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