The United States won the Women’s Softball World Championship for the 11th time as the sport prepares its return to the Olympics. The winner of the 16 team tournament was given a quota to compete at the Olympics. The championship was held in Chiba, Japan from August 2nd to August 12th 2018.
Two groups of eight teams were played. Group A saw the United States and Puerto Rico go undefeated until their final group stage match where the two teams faced each other. A three-run homer in the third and fourth innings more or less sealed the win for the United States with the team winning 8-1 with only five innings played. Mexico finished third in the group with a 5-2 performance while the fourth place team came down to the final games where a combination of Mexico defeating Chinese Taipei 4-3 and the Netherlands defeating South Africa 11-1 in five innings sent the Dutch team to the next round.
Group B was dominated by the host team, Japan whom went a perfect 7-0. A 1-0 China over Australia upset created a crucial game against Canada where two single runs in the second and sixth innings was enough for Australia to defeat Canada and ultimately claim second over the Canadians. Fourth place came down to the final set of games between China and Italy. A five point third inning by the Italians ended the hopes of the Chinese as Italy would win the game 7-0 in five innings.
The lower championship bracket saw Mexico defeat Italy 1-0 after nine innings while Canada only required five innings to defeat the Netherlands 8-1, causing both teams to be eliminated. The upper championship bracket had the United States defeat Australia 3-1 and Japan defeat Puerto Rico 7-0 in six innings. The next round required an extra inning between Australia and Mexico as both nations were tied 0-0; Australia would go to win it 2-1. Puerto Rico and Canada on the other hand was a high scoring match with it being 5-4 Canada going into the seventh. A five point inning, including a Grand Slam secured the 10-4 victory for Canada.
The upper semi-final was a match between the two undefeated teams in the tournament. At one point Japan held a 3-0 lead over the United States, but the United States was able to come back and force an extra inning. It was the United States that scored and won the game 4-3 to advance to the gold medal match. The lower semi-final between Australia and Canada saw Canada exact some revenge from their earlier meeting. Canada scored five runs in the first inning and would add another seven in the third to win 12-0 in four innings, eliminating Australia.
The preliminary final between Japan and Canada saw Japan scoring runs in the first and third innings to defeat Canada 3-0 and advance to the grand final against the United States. The grand final showcased the strength of the two best nations of the world with lead changes and come backs. By the end of the seventh inning the nations were tied 3-3. Both teams scored a run in the eighth, but it wouldn’t be until the tenth inning when the United States outscored Japan 3-2 to win the championship 7-6.
The top two teams in the world have now qualified to the Olympics. The remaining qualification quotas will be decided across three continental qualifiers.
* United States