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Chinese softballers suffer first loss, favorite Japan unbeaten
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08:50, August 15, 2008

The world number three Australia staged an convincing comeback from two straight defeats to give host China its first loss at the Beijing Olympic softball tournament on Thursday.

Australia, the silver medallist at Athens Olympics, took the sudden lead in the top first inning when the lead off batter Simmone Morrow hit a solo homer to stun the host.

A hot batting Simmone seemed to know China's starting hurler well and delivered a two-run homer in the second inning to widen the lead to 3-0.

China had to change the pitcher after the blow with left-handed Li Qi on before the inning ended. Reliefer Li tossed perfectly in the following five innings, striking out eight batters and allowing no runs.

With Li's steady pitch in the circle, China managed to narrow the gap in the bottom third inning when Yu Yanhong's single hit drove Zhang Lifang home to get the sole run of the game.

Chinese head coach Wang Lihong labeled the game as normal.

"They have lost two games and made a desperate fight for today's victory," said Wang.

"Aussies are much stronger than us in the offence and we can see this from today's game. But they got a lucky homer in the opening and that was disastrous for us because it affected our players' confidence," she added.

In the previous two games, China pounded the Netherlands and Venezuela with big margins, aiming to grab an elusive medal as the sport was voted out of the 2012 London Olympics.

On Friday, China will play Canada for the fourth round competitions.

Two straight winners the United States and Canada should have staged an competitive fight but the unexpected downfall ruined the duel. Canada temporarily outscored the defending champion 1-0 after three innings. The fourth inning will resume 30 minutes after the second game between the United States and Japan on Friday.

The clash between Japan and the Netherlands was delayed one hour later due to the rain, yet Japanese batters were still hot in the cold wetness.

Eri Yamada's single hit drove Rei Nishiyama home and Yamada ran later to edge the lead to 2-0 in the first inning.

Japan's staring pitcher Hiroko Sakai tossed steadily in six innings, striking out six batters and allowing no runs.

The world number two achieved the final run in the fifth and gained their third successive victory of the tournament.

With a bunch of talented pitchers in the bullpen, Japan vows to overthrow the USA's longtime dominance in the Olympic arena and grab a first ever gold in Beijing.

In the closing game of the day, Chinese Taipei shut out Venezuela 3-0 to get the first victory.

The eight teams will play in a round-robin fomat at the preliminaries and the top four winners will contest for medals in the page system.


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