US beats Japan 4-3 to reach final of softball worlds

MAKUHARI, Japan (AP) — Pitcher Rachel Garcia drove in the winning run in the eighth inning Saturday to lift the United States to a 4-3 win over Japan and into the final of the women’s world softball championship.

With a runner on third base, Garcia hit a line drive to the gap in left-center field to seal the win. The defending champions will face either Japan or Canada in Sunday’s final of a tournament that doubles as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Yu Yamamoto gave the hosts the lead in the first inning with a two-run homer to right field off American starter Monica Abbott.

Japan knocked Abbott out of the game in the third after a single and a double. Kelly Barnhill came in to record one out then was replaced by Keilani Ricketts, who surrendered a run to a fielder’s choice as Japan took a 3-0 lead.

Aubree Munroe hit a solo home in the bottom of the third and Valeri Arioto drove in another run to cut the lead to 3-2.

Kelsey Stewart hit a solo homer to left in the fifth to tie the game 3-3.

The winner of the tournament will be awarded an Olympic spot. If Japan wins, the second-place finisher will be granted the Olympic spot because Japan has an automatic berth as host.

Softball and baseball were dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games but have been restored for 2020.

Canada beat Puerto Rico 10-4 and Australia 12-0 and will face Japan tomorrow with a chance to advance to the final.

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