USA excludes Italy in Olympic softball opener – NBC Boston
The United States opened its campaign at the Tokyo Olympics with a 2-0 victory over Italy on Wednesday as softball made its long-awaited return to the Olympics after a 13-year hiatus.
For their first of five first-round games, the United States turned to their veteran pitchers with three previous Olympics between them.
2004 Athens gold medalist Osterman cat got the start for the United States and dominated, limiting the Italians to one hit in six innings, striking out nine. Her teammate at the 2008 Beijing Games, Monique Abbott, threw a scoreless seventh to close the shutout, hitting the side.
For much of the game, Italy Greta Cecchetti equaled land for Osterman land. The former NCAA Division I pitcher with Texas A&M Corpus Christi kept the US offense going without a hitting for the first three innings.
Late in the fourth, however, the American clean-up hitter Valarie Arioto scored a single against Cecchetti for the Americans’ first hit. Michelle Moultrie followed two hitters later with a single to lead Arioto and put the United States 1-0.
One round later, Aubree Munro scored on a sacrifice volley by Janie Roseau double the advance. The United States filled in the goals later in the fifth, but Moultrie flew to end the set and leave the runners stranded. The United States didn’t score a goal in the sixth and seventh to complete a less than stellar attacking performance, which followed Japan’s 8-1 victory over Australia earlier in the day.
The United States joined Japan at the top of the standings in the first two round robin matches to officially lead the Tokyo Olympics. Both matches were held at Fukushima Azuma baseball stadium, important for its location in the same Japanese prefecture that was devastated by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. The first competition of the Olympics was held there, even in the absence of fans, was meant to commemorate the region’s recovery efforts of the past decade.
The United States is chasing a fourth softball gold on five occasions after winning the sport’s first three Olympic tournaments from 1996 to 2004. At the 2008 Beijing Games, the last before the Olympic break in 13 years of softball, the United States lost the final game to Japan. A much-anticipated – albeit long-delayed – rematch between the two softball powers is scheduled for the final day of the round robin, July 25 at 9 p.m. ET.