The opener: Japan defeats Australia in softball

The first pitch was thrown in an empty stadium

Waiting 13 long years plus an extra delay caused by the pandemic, Yukiko Ueno finally sees the moment he was wishing for. After all doubts about Tokyo Olympics taking place, she was trying on the mound to help her country win another gold medal for softball.

Uneo

Ueno said she was trying to calm down before the game and not let herself feel too excited about the opportunity of going back to the mound for the Olympics. She said she was overthinking.

Ueno, 39, settled down from a weak start to allow two hits over 4 1/3 innings in a stadium almost empty of spectators. Japan got off to a winning start when beat Australia 8-1 on Wednesday. In the second game of a tripleheader, Italy was defeated in the inning against U.S. 2-0.

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The opener

The teams that were to play in a stadium about 241 kilometers north of the main Olympic sites in Tokyo, lined up for the national anthems, being watched by only 50 spectators. The spectators were media, team, and Olympic officials.

The games will be played about 65 kilometers from the site of a 2011 nuclear power plant disaster in the first two days of the softball tournament. After that, the rest of the tournament is to be held in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The opener: Japan defeats Australia in softball

No spectators

The pitcher thinks it is kind of a disappointment to have just 50 spectators in a stadium with a listed capacity of 30,000 because they wanted to demonstrate their play in front of the people of Fukushima; people who have made a lot of efforts to reconstruct their city.

Coronavirus pandemic has made the officials bar fans from the Olympics. Many people living in Japan are not sure if the Olympics should take place at all considering the low levels of vaccination in the country.

Stacey Porter, the third baseman said Australia can create its own excitement.

The inning

Uneo struck out 7 and threw 85 pitches for the win, not surprising if you know she has won the 2008 gold medal game before.

Kaia Parnaby was hit two-run homers off by Minori Naito and Saki Yamazaki.

Despite all the questions raised about the Olympics’ viability, At 9:02 a.m. at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, Ueno started Michelle Cox from Australia off with a ball.

The temperature was 31 degrees and the humidity was 60 percent, and the sun was in the eyes of left-handed batters. It seemed even warmer because of the artificial turf, and Tarni Stepto pitched wearing no cap.

The opener: Japan defeats Australia in softball

In the first, Ueno made her second straight hit batter when she forced in a run by hitting Chelsea Forkin with a pitch.

In the bottom half, Yamamoto singled in a run, and in the third, by Naito fouling off a 1-2 changeup, and driving a hanging changeup over the left-center field fence, Japan took a 3-1 lead.

Forkin dropping the throw at first, and Fujita driving a 1-0 pitch over the 220-foot fence in left center, Yamazaki reached on a grounder leading off the fourth. A sacrifice fly off Stepto added by Nodoka Harada gave Japan a 6-1 lead.

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Japan and softball

After defeating the U.S. in the 2008 final, Japan became the defending softball gold medallist. In the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Softball and baseball were dropped. They are restored for the 2020 Olympics. For the 2024 Paris Games, they will be dropped again and might be restored for 2028 in Los Angeles.

Reika Utsugi, Japan’s coach believed Uneo would be very ready for the opener. She considers Uneo as the reason Japan became a strong team and why the team is now able to dream about winning the gold.

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