- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2008

From combined dispatches

BEIJING | One more for gold. One more before goodbye.

Pushed to extra innings, the U.S. Olympic softball team scored four runs in the ninth inning and beat Japan 4-1 on Wednesday to move within one win of its fourth straight gold medal - in the sport’s farewell for now.

Crystl Bustos hit a three-run homer - almost out of Fengtai Field - in the ninth inning as the Americans extended their Olympic winning streak to 22.

Blanked for eight innings by Yukiko Ueno, the Americans (8-0) got an RBI single from Caitlin Lowe in the ninth before Bustos put it out reach, putting the United States in the sport’s last gold medal game until at least 2016.



“That was softball at its best,” U.S. coach Mike Candrea said. “Great pitching, great defense, some great adjustments at the plate. The international tiebreaker. The 20-second pitch clock. You saw a little bit of what the sport has to offer.”

The U.S. team started the inning with Natasha Watley on second and she scored when Lowe bounced a single off Japan shortstop Rei Nishiyama’s glove and into center field, sending the American pouring out of the dugout in relief and celebration.

Jessica Mendoza walked, and despite having first base open, Japan decided to pitch to Bustos, softball’s greatest power hitter.

She made them pay when Ueno tried to overpower the American cleanup hitter, who connected for her fifth homer of these games and the 13th of her three-Olympic career - a blast to left that landed about five rows from the top of the 10,000-seat stadium.

“I was waiting for that pitch,” Bustos said. “I knew she was going to come with it. I just wanted to get my bat on it.”

Monica Abbott pitched eight shutout innings for the United States, which could face Japan again for gold Thursday. The Japanese will play the Australia-Canada semifinal winner later in the bronze-medal game with the winner meeting the Americans.

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL

The United States came from behind to defeat Serbia in five sets and remain undefeated in Beijing.

The 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 victory propels the United States into the semifinal round against Russia.

BASEBALL

Brian Barden singled in the go-ahead run to break a scoreless tie in the 11th inning as the United States beat Japan 4-2. The Americans earned the third seed in Friday’s medal round, with the Japanese getting fourth.

The U.S. team will play defending champion Cuba, while Japan will take on South Korea, the only undefeated team.

TAEKWONDO

Mexico’s Guillermo Perez won the men’s under 58-kg division, beating Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic. A bronze went to Rohullah Nikpai, marking the first medal in any sport for Afghanistan.

OPEN-WATER SWIMMING

Larisa Ilchenko of Russia drafted behind the leading British duo most of the 6.2-mile race, then sprinted to a gold medal in the final 50 meters.

The pace-setting Brits, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten, got silver and bronze.

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