The U.S. women's softball team advanced to the gold medal game for the fourth time after a nine-inning 4-1 win over Japan at Fengtai Softball Field Wednesday morning (local time).
Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.) rapped a single to open the ninth and drive in Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif. ) to break a 0-0 tie. After Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) reached first, Crystl Bustos (Canyon Country, Calif.) launched a three-run home run to left that came within five rows of leaving the park.
Japan tried to answer in the bottom of the ninth, but was unable to do more than plate an unearned run when Motoko Fujimoto scored from second, where she began the inning under softball's extra-inning rule.
Lowe led the U.S. offense with two hits. Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) struck out 11 and walked one in eight innings of work to pick up the win, while Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) pitched the ninth and picked up a strikeout.
Under the Page play-off system being employed at the 2008 Olympic Games, Japan will now face the winner of this afternoon's Australia-Canada game at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The winner of that game will face the U.S. in the gold medal game at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.