Japan notched their first playoff game by ousting China 1-0 on Sunday in the tiebreaker to challenge the United States, who crushed Australia 11-2 at women's softball World Championship, which is the first Olympic test event in Beijing.
The game between Japan and China was held scoreless until the eighth inning (tiebreaker). Both sides built up unpenetrating defense with no hit in the first four innings in the seesaw game.
Japan took the upper hand in offense by batting their first hit in the fourth out of Aki Uenishi, followed by one more single from Eri Yamada, but they failed to turn out a run.
Japan reached the second base for the first time in the fifth with Emi Inui bunted the ball to send Megu Hirose to second after she singled, but Japan failed to go further in the inning.
China's first hit came in the bottom of sixth with two doubles in a row by Xin Minhong and Jiang Xin, which helped China take over second and third bases with no out. But the following three batters squandered China's best chance to lead, with two being struck out and one fielded out motivated by Japan's well-known pitcher Yukiko Ueno.
Japan reinforced their offense in the seventh to get all based loaded through singles from Masumi Mishina and Aymumi Karino and a walk given by Yu Huili, who was then relieved by Lu Wei. China dodged Japan's run after fielding out Japan's third batter to push the game into tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker had attacking side starting offense from second base, so that the scoring opportunity comes easy. Eri Yamada doubled to reach the third base as China touched out Aki Uenishi near the home plate, then Sachiko Ito singled to drive Eri Yamada home to produce the decisive and sole run for Japan.
China's offense came out fruitless with two being struck out and one fielding out after a misplay steal.
Ueno pitched all through to strike out ten, allowing only three hits. China's two pitchers drop seven hits and collected eight strikeouts.
Japan, the bronze medallist in Athens Olympic Games, will play against the United States again on Monday for a rematch of the championship's grand final.
China will play against Italy on Monday to recover the chance to reach the grand final.
"This victory should be credited to my players. I'm very happy and thanks all of you," said Japan coach Hidetomi Ikama.
"We will try our best for tomorrow's game. I was sure that I would make good pitches. I was confident that I would make it," Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno said when talking about China's runners on second and third bases in the sixth.
"Individually, I think it's really a tough game, but we also gained happiness through the game. Meanwhile, Thank you all!"
"Surely, we'll try our best to win. And then think about the next goal.I feel disappointed badly on our loss today. Though we created many chances to score, I'm really unpleasant to see that we could not persist till the last minute to win," said Michael Bastian, China's coach.
Four home runs impelled the United States one step forward to defend their title by washing out Australia 11-2 in a slopy playoff game.
The United States extended their winning streak further to eight games, setting up a match against the winners between China and Japan for a place in the grand final.
The United States came forward in the second inning with a two-run homer by Stacey Nuveman to establish the defending champions 2-0 lead.
Australia then fought back in the top of third by hitting two singles and one double consecutively to even the score.
Sandra Allen tripled to drive Simmone Morrow home after Morrow reached the first with a single to mark Australia their first point in the game, followed by Allen's home plate touch propelled by Stacey Porter's single.
But Australia failed to gear up and soon surrendered second two-run homer to Jessica Mendoza, which won back the United States the lead by 4-2 to pressure Australia starter Kelley Hardie being relieved by Tanya Harding.
The United States curbed Australia's robust rebound in a critical moment of the game at the top of fourth inning. Australia hit out three singles in a row to get all bases loaded with only one out waiting for a scoring wave, but Catherine Osterman struck next two batters out to melt down Australia's chance to run. Then the United States hit out their third homer in the game by Andrea Duran to spring up to 5-2 ahead of Australia.
The United States continued to push hard to score with bases fully loaded after Harding gave off two straight walks and a single. Caitlin Lowe singled to drive third-base taker Jennie Finch home with all bases occupied still. Crystl Bustos singled two runs to further send Jennie Finch and Natasha Watley home.
The defending champions pocketed four points in the fourth to overwhelm Australia 8-2 in score board, forcing Australia another substitution over pitching with Kelly Gentle on.
But Gentle was far from enough to help Australia rally back by allowing a three-run homer to Jessica Mendoza to lose the game with 11-2.
U.S. ace pitcher Catherine Osterman is invincible to any team by now, who struck out ten and allowed six hits in the game against 11 hits, two errors rendered by Australia's three pitchers.
"I'm just proud of the way I threw. I'm really happy that I've got them out especially when we needed. It's a little tough at first, but for the most part I'm satisfied. Next time I'll be better," U.S. shocking pitcher Catherine Osterman said.
Australia coach Fabian Barlow was upset with the big loss. "Another fantastic hitting team. We sent out three pitchers, but none of them can get the job done. We just need a little more hitting. We hit (Cat) Osterman very well. But loss is loss, We are not very happy. It's a loss. It's not good," said Barlow.
In other two games, Canada beat Chinese Taipei 3-2 to play Australia next round; Italy downed Venezuela 2-1 to confront hosts China.
The World Softball Championship is the first Olympic test event in Beijing with 16 teams competing in two pools before the page-system playoffs, which will produce four spots (excluding China, the host) participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.