Palomino leads USA past Japan 8-1 for junior world title
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Even as the United States' players were being awarded gold medals, their minds were elsewhere.
Softball and baseball are trying to get back into the Olympics. They were removed for 2012 and won't be on the program in 2016. Japan, which will host the Olympics in 2020, has entered a proposal to add the sports. The International Olympic Committee will make its final decision in August 2016.
After the United States beat Japan 8-1 in the junior women's world softball championship final Saturday night, the finalists joined bronze medalists Puerto Rico to place softballs in front of the medal stand and create the number 2020. The three teams posed together and held up a sign that read, `Baseball and Softball Let's do it together 2020.'
''For everyone here, no matter what country you're from, to see softball get into the 2020 Olympics is everyone's dream,'' USA pitcher Kelly Barnhill said. ''It's been my dream since I was a little girl. Being in the Olympics is the pinnacle in any sport. Being able to represent your country on that Olympic stage would be an amazing experience. Everyone wants to see it there.''
If it gets there, the United States showed it will be a favorite. Saturday's margin was the largest by any team in a gold medal game. The Americans dethroned the defending champs and won the event for the fifth time in 11 tries. These players will be just entering their primes in five years.
Alyssa Palomino had a homer and a triple in the final. She set a tournament record with 27 RBIs and tied a tournament mark with five home runs. Jenna Lilley hit a three-run homer and Sydney Romero hit a solo shot and doubled for the United States (10-0), which outscored its opponents 119-6 overall.
Barnhill went 6-0 in the tournament, allowing just two earned runs in 26 innings.
Puerto Rico earned the bronze medal after losing the semifinal to Japan earlier in the day.
It was the first time the United States had hosted the event since 1995, when the Americans went unbeaten and won the title in Normal, Ill.
Japan had outscored its seven opponents 71-0 in this year's tournament before the United States claimed a 14-2 win Friday that forced Japan to play Puerto Rico in the semifinal.
Japan's ace pitcher, Haruka Fukui, did not play in the USA's pool play victory, but she was the winning pitcher against Puerto Rico. She allowed one earned run in 22 innings before facing the United States in the final.
In the top of the second inning, Romero singled, then Madilyn Nickles hit a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third with no outs and Palomino at the plate. Palomino popped out, and Fukui eventually escaped without allowing a run in the inning.
Japan's Chiharu Nasu singled with two outs in the bottom of the second, but she was caught stealing on a throw to second by Jenavee Peres.
The United States opened the scoring with Lilley's blast to center in the third inning. Romero's double scored Nicole DeWitt, and Palomino's triple scored Romero to push the lead to 5-0 in the fifth. DeWitt's sacrifice fly scored Jazmyn Jackson in the sixth, and the Americans padded their lead with the solo shots by Romero and Palomino in the seventh.
Japan scored with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Akane Ariyoshi singled to knock in Erika Ishino.
The United States got the final out, and what followed was a scenario the American players hope repeats itself in 2020 in Tokyo.
''People were telling me standing on the podium and listening to your national anthem play is a great feeling,'' Barnhill said. ''I was like, `Oh, yeah.' Then being up there, it's like, they were right. It's the best feeling.''