OKLAHOMA CITY — The first inning lasted 35 minutes. Misato Kawano gave Japan a quick lead with a leadoff homer to right field off U.S. starter Aimee Creger (0-1). Creger, playing just down the road from her home in suburban Oklahoma City, recovered to record two quick outs, but then surrendered a single to Yukiyo Mine and a double down the left-field line to Misa Okubo.
Eriksen quickly changed pitchers, inserting Cheridan Hawkins. Hawkins’ first pitch was wild, allowing Mine to score, and a passed ball by U.S. catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt moments later brought Okubo home, putting Japan up 3-0.
“I wanted to score more runs, because (the U.S. is) a very good hitting team,” Japan coach Reika Utsugi said through an interpreter. “But that helped a lot to score early.”
The U.S. loaded the bases in the bottom of the first when Michelle Moultrie and Lauren Gibson singled and Amanda Chidester was hit by a pitch. Valerie Arioto’s one-out bloop single scored Moultrie, but Taylor Thom struck out looking and Ziegenhirt popped up.
Rhea Taylor singled for the U.S. and scored in the second, courtesy of errors by shortstop Rei Nishiyama and Ueno, cutting Japan’s lead to 3-2.
Japan extended its lead to 6-2 in the fourth, recording five hits off Hawkins and reliever Sara Nevins. Nozomi Shimasaki, pinch-hitter Natsuko Ono and Kawano had RBI singles in the inning.
Ueno retired nine straight batters before Gibson walked with two outs. Chidester followed with a blast over the left-field wall to pull the U.S. within 6-4.
But Japan extended the lead again in the sixth, as Rie Nagayoshi walked and scored on a groundout by Nishiyama.
“Because we have a young team with us this year, I am surprised that we were able to hit that well today,” Utsagi said.