Aug. 19, 2008
BEIJING -- A four-run ninth erased a goose egg on the scoreboard, and Monica Abbott was stellar once again as Team USA downed Japan, 4-1, on Wednesday morning in the semifinal game of the 2008 Olympics.
The win was the 22nd straight Olympic victory for the Americans, who have now advanced to gold medal game for the fourth straight Olympic year.
It was a pitcher's duel indeed as Japan's ace, Yukiko Ueno (3-1), limited the U.S. to three hits in the first seven, en route to six total for the Americans. Ueno nabbed eight K's in the outing.
Abbott (3-0), in the circle for the U.S., gave up just two of the three total Japanese hits in regulation. She finished the game with 11 strikeouts.
Six total runners saw time on the basepath through the first seven innings as both pitchers dominated in a scoreless tie into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, with the international tie-breaker in effect, Andrea Duran advanced to third on a chopper single by Laura Berg, but Lovieanne Jung followed with a strikeout in her at-bat to bring the inning's first out.
Controversy followed when Tairia Flowers stepped to the plate, took a swing and hit the glove of the catcher. Flowers was not awarded first base for catcher's interference and Mike Candrea argued the call. After a long conference among the umpires, the call was upheld, Flowers struck out, and Natasha Watley followed with a groundout back to the circle to end the half-inning, still scoreless.
Abbott induced two foul pop-ups and a strikeout in the bottom half to move to the ninth.
With Watley on second, the first pitch to Caitlin Lowe was shot up the left side and bounced off the shortstop's glove, rolling softly into center and plating Watley, the game's first run.
After a walk to Jessica Mendoza, Crystl Bustos sent the fourth pitch she saw halfway up the left field bleachers for a three-run shot, the fourteenth of these Olympics for Team USA, and a 4-0 U.S. lead.
Abbott gave up a hit that led to Japan's only run in the bottom half, and was replaced by Cat Osterman who tallied the final outs to secure the victory.
UA Alumna Lowe went 2-3 with a run scored, while plating the game's first RBI in the ninth. Jung went 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Up Next: The United States advances to the gold medal game on Thursday. After dowining Australia in the bronze medal match, Japan will once again face off against the U.S., this time for gold. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 a.m. Thursday (Tucson time). The game will be broadcast live on nbcolympics.com.