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Kelsey Stewart’s walk-off homer delivers U.S. softball win over Japan

U.S. softball players celebrate after Kelsey Stewart's walk-off homer to right field to cap a 2-1 win over Japan.
U.S. softball players celebrate after Kelsey Stewart’s walk-off homer to right field to cap a 2-1 win over Japan on Monday.
(Gary Ambrose / For the Times)

It meant nothing and everything.

The undefeated U.S. softball team was assured of meeting its biggest rival for the gold medal no matter what happened Monday at Yokohama Baseball Stadium in the final game of the opening round.

Japan also had gone unbeaten in these Olympics, setting up a rematch in a little more than 24 hours between teams that had not faced one another on this stage in 13 years. The happy tears in 2008 belonged to Japan after an epic upset in the Beijing Olympics that left the Americans sobbing in what both teams feared was the sport’s sendoff.

News, results and features from The Times’ team of 12 reporters who covered the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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Its return might belong to the U.S. if its offense that had been slumbering for most of the last week can continue to come alive the way it did late in a 2-1 victory Monday.

Kelsey Stewart hit a walk-off homer to right field leading off the seventh inning and got mobbed by teammates at home plate. The U.S. notched all four of its hits in the final two innings, including Valerie Arioto’s two-out, run-scoring single through the left side of the infield in the sixth.

Former UCLA star Ally Carda pitched 5-1/3 strong innings in her first start of these Games, preserving ace Cat Osterman for a grudge match more than a decade in the making after Osterman was the losing pitcher against Japan in their most recent Olympic matchup.

Osterman and Monica Abbott combined for 1-2/3 innings of scoreless relief after Carda gave up an unearned run in the first inning, mostly because of a fielding error and a passed ball.

Kelsey Stewart watches her walk-off home run during the seventh inning of a 2-1 U.S. win.
Kelsey Stewart watches her walk-off home run during the seventh inning of a 2-1 U.S. win over Japan on Monday.
(Gary Ambrose / For the Times)
U.S. pitcher Ally Carda delivers against Japan on Monday.
(Gary Ambrose / For the Times)

Osterman and Abbott are the only remaining U.S. players from the Beijing Olympics, and Osterman is the only one to have won gold as part of the team that won the championship in 2004 in Athens.

Japan has three players back from its conquest of the U.S. in pitcher Yukiko Ueno, outfielder Eri Yamada and catcher Yukiyo Mine. Ueno was the breakthrough star of those Games, holding the U.S. to one run in the championship after gutting her way through 28 innings over two days.

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U.S. player Amanda Chidester strains as she runs to first base against Japan on Monday.
(Gary Ambrose / For the Times)

Ueno could duel Osterman in another showdown Tuesday unless nature intervenes. The forecast called for rain as Tropical Storm Nepartak approached the Japanese mainland, endangering a slew of outdoor events.


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