OKLAHOMA CITY — On a night when plenty of bad things happened to the United States softball team, the good news for the Americans was this: they still control their own destiny in the eighth World Cup of Softball.
The U.S. surrendered its most runs ever in a game in a major international tournament and lost 7-4 to Japan on Saturday night, which allowed Japan to advance to tonight’s gold-medal game.
But if the Americans (2-1) beat Puerto Rico (0-3) this afternoon, they will get a rematch against Japan (3-1) for the gold medal, courtesy of a runs-allowed tiebreaker. But should the U.S. lose, Canada (3-1) will play Japan, with the U.S. relegated to the bronze-medal game against either Australia (1-3) or Puerto Rico.
Japan posted its second straight win over the U.S. in international play, having won 2-1 in the gold-medal game in last year’s world championships. The U.S. never had given up more than six runs in any game in any international tournament — that came in 1983, in a 16-6 win over Belize in the Pan American Games.
The U.S. hadn’t lost in the World Cup since falling 4-3 to Canada in 2011. But despite all those negative numbers, U.S. coach Ken Eriksen was upbeat, noting that the U.S. was competitive against Japan’s ace, Yukiko Ueno.
“I’m pretty excited, actually, the way we responded tonight,” Eriksen said. “Our pitching was a little awry. Our pitching was a very young tonight, in respect to maturity, how they approached the hitters and so forth.
“But the way our kids responded, showing they were not overmatched — anytime you get eight hits and four runs off the No. 1 pitcher in the world and move the ball as well as we did, I thought we played very, very well offensively. I thought we did some great things defensively. What you hope for is the maturation of the pitching. That’s a whole mental thing.”