TOKYO (NBCOlympics.com/KXAN) — Kelsey Stewart picked the right time to hit Team USA’s first home run of the Olympic softball tournament Monday.
In a game solely for seeding purposes, the Americans came back from a 1-0 deficit to walk off with a 2-1 victory over Japan following Stewart’s solo homer over the right-field wall, and it was a jolt of offense the Americans desperately needed.
The win capped a perfect 5-0 round-robin schedule for Team USA, and as the No. 1 seed going into the gold medal game Tuesday, they’ll play Japan again. Both teams were 4-0 going into the game. Japan defeated the Americans the last time softball was in the Olympic program in 2008.
Team USA didn’t have a hit until the sixth inning and trailed 1-0 from the first inning on until the late-game rally. The Americans tied the game with a Valerie Arioto RBI single in the sixth inning of Japanese starting pitcher Yamato Fujita.
The lack of offense from Team USA has been a big story, but yet they have still got it done. In five games, Team USA has scored just nine runs in the tournament. On the flip side, Team USA’s pitching has been tremendous, allowing just two runs the entire tournament.
Former Texas Longhorn pitcher Cat Osterman pitched two-thirds of an inning late in the game in a situational relief role, striking out two of Japan’s left-handed hitters before giving way to Monica Abbott.
Starting pitcher Ally Carda pitched 5 1/3 innings in her first start of the tournament, allowing an unearned run.
Both Osterman and Abbott will be fresh in the circle for Team USA, so whoever head coach Ken Eriksen chooses to start the game, the other will most certainly see time in relief. Osterman has a score to settle with Japan — she was the losing pitcher in the 2008 gold medal game when Japan upset the favored Americans.
Japan is expected to start its ace in the pitching circle, Yukiko Ueno, in the gold medal game. With the win Monday, Team USA will be the home team in the gold medal game.
The game could be delayed depending on the timing of a typhoon that’s headed toward Japan. If the game goes on as planned, it will air live at 6 a.m. CDT Tuesday.