Japan’s Haruka Kageyama tags Team U.S.A.’s Rhea Taylor out at second base during a base stealing attempt during the final game at the Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship at Softball City on Sunday. Japan beat the U.S. 7-0.

Japan takes Canadian Open championship

Defeats U.S.A. in final, Canada places fourth

Though the rain didn’t arrive in full force until the last few innings, it was Japan that brought the thunder early, scoring six times in the first three innings en route to a 7-0 waxing of the United States, in the women’s division final at the Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship in Surrey Sunday.

Japan beat the American squad twice Sunday at Softball City, first in the semifinal game 4-3, which knocked the U.S. into the consolation bracket, before punching their ticket to the title game with a 6-1 win over Australia.

But while the first Japan-USA tilt was close – with Japan scoring the winning run on an error in the bottom of the seventh inning – Sunday evening game was anything but.

Japan scored twice in the first inning, thanks to a pair of doubles down the third-baseline, first from leadoff batter Eri Yamada and then from Maki Furuta, added another run in the second, and tacked on three more in the third inning, highlighted by a home run from third basemen Yu Yamamoto.

American starting pitcher Keilani Ricketts lasted just one-and-a-third innings – giving up five hits and three runs – before she was relieved by Chelsea Thomas, and then Whitney Canion.

Considering Japan had become known more for its defence than its offence during the Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship, the offensive outburst surprised many in attendance at Softball City, even the U.S. head coach.

“I’ve never seen Japan come out like that in my entire life, and I’ve been coaching in this program for 14 years,” said Ken Eriksen.

“Japan, they’re the type of hitters who are very aggressive early in the count, and they were swinging the bats very well.

“That’s part of the learning curve for our young pitchers – they’ve got to learn to pitch against that team.”

After being spotted such a big lead early, Japan ace pitcher Yuekiko Ueno did not give the U.S. much chance for a comeback. Ueno – who also pitched in Japan’s win over the States earlier Sunday – pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits while striking out 10.

“She’s an experienced pitcher, very seasoned – she’s been to the Olympics – and I thought she exploited our young players, and you’ve got to give her credit for that, because we can swing the bats pretty good,” Eriksen said.

“She was very good today. She spotted her pitches well and really kept us off balance.”

Canada, meanwhile, placed fourth overall in the women’s division. They were ousted from the tournament on Sunday afternoon, losing to Australia 8-1 in the consolation bracket of the double-knockout tournament. In the first playoff round Friday afternoon, Team Canada was upset 8-5 by Venezuela, knocking them into the consolation bracket earlier than expected.

Canada beat China Nanjing and the California A’s Saturday before falling to the Aussies.

– A loss in their second playoff contest proved too much for the Canadian Junior Women’s National Team to overcome in the Futures (under-19) Gold division.

Canada placed second in the 27-team competition, falling to the California Worth Firecrackers 8-7 in Sunday night’s championship game.

The Firecrackers, which had won all nine round robin and playoff contests prior to the final, overcame a 5-0 deficit with a six-run third inning. Then, after Canada took a 7-6 advantage into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Firecrackers claimed the championship by scoring the tying and winning runs with a pair of two-out hits.

The runs for-against tiebreaker left Canada seeded fourth among the 16 teams in the double-knockout playoff, trailing the Souther California Breakers, Surrey Storm and California Worth Firecrackers after all four teams won all five round robin contests.

Canada defeated the Richmond Islanders ’93 10-0 in the first game Friday morning, then lost 4-1 to the national youth team from Brazil.

One loss away from elimination, Canada won five straight games by a combined 42-3 to get to the championship game.

– Hawaii Lokahi came through the back door to win the Showcase Gold championship.

The second seed for the 16-team playoff, Hawaii was upset 5-1 by the Abbotsford Outlaws ’95 Friday afternoon. But the setback – and rain – only slowed them down. They blanked the Delta Heat ’95 7-0 Saturday afternoon, then won four straight on Sunday, including a 10-1 win over the Abbotsford Outlaws ’96 in the championship game.

<i>- with files from Rick Kupchuk

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