USA softball waited 13 years for a chance to reclaim the gold medal from Japan but the Japanese were unwilling to relent on their home turf.
They staved off the Americans 2-0 on Tuesday to secure gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Japan scored on an infield single in the fourth, then an RBI single to right in the fifth. Both runs were charged to Ally Carda, though it was Monica Abbott who surrendered the hit that brought home the second run.
Japan ace Yukiko Ueno, who was the winning pitcher in Japan’s 2008 gold-medal victory over the U.S., allowed just two hits and two walks in six innings. Miu Goto pitched a scoreless sixth before Ueno re-entered for a scoreless seventh.
Former Arizona catcher Dejah Mulipola did not play in the gold-medal game and only appeared in one game the entire Olympics. She went 1 for 2 with a single and a walk. Starting catcher Aubree Munro, a defensive specialist, had one hit in 11 at-bats.
Munro stepped to the plate in the fifth representing the tying run. Instead of using a pinch hitter, USA coach Ken Eriksen stuck with Munro and she fanned on three pitches to strand a runner on second.
USA threatened again in the sixth with two singles, but the rally ended on a freak play. Amanda Chidester lined a rocket off the third baseman’s wrist and it deflected into the shortstop’s glove. Michelle Moultrie got doubled off at second for the third out.
It was emblematic of Team USA’s offensive struggles at the Olympics. They only produced nine runs in six games and did not score more than two runs in any game.
Softball isn’t expected to be played at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, so Team USA will have to wait until at least 2028 for their next chance to bring home the gold.
That time Team USA will be on their home field in Los Angeles.
O’Toole shines in bronze medal game but Mexico falls to Canada
Former UA ace Danielle O’Toole tossed a complete game in the bronze medal game but Canada beat Mexico 3-2.
A sac fly by Tucson native Kelsey Harshman brought home the game-winning run in the fifth. It was the only earned run O’Toole allowed all game and just the third she allowed in 17 innings at the Olympics, good enough for a 1.71 ERA.
Canada took a 2-0 lead in the second with a two-run single but Mexico tied it with RBI singles in the third and fifth.
Former UA pitcher Taylor McQuillin pitched scoreless 1.2 innings in Tokyo, all in the opener vs. Canada, which Mexico lost 4-0. She was warming up during the bronze medal game but never entered.
This was Mexico softball’s first time ever competing in the Olympics.
G makes Olympic debut for Italy
UA sophomore Giulia Koutsoyanopulos appeared in all five games for Italy and went 1 for 10 at the plate with a single. She started one game in center field and four at first base, her natural position.
Italy went 0-5 and only scored one run. Still, it should be valuable experience for Koutsoyanopulos, who will be competing for a bigger role in her second season at Arizona.
The former top-50 recruit appeared in 49 games as a freshman but almost exclusively as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. Koutsoyanopulos only got 13 at-bats all season. She had three hits, all singles.
Starting at first base may be unlikely because fellow rising sophomore Carlie Scupin, one of Arizona’s top hitters, plays that position, but Koutsoyanopulos showed she can also play the outfield. UA could also opt to use Scupin at designated player and let Koutsoyanopulos, the superior defender, start at first. (She hits right-handed but throws left-handed, so she can’t play other infield positions.)