The USA were confirmed as U-19 Women’s Softball World Champions following a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind win against Japan in the final. The game went to an extra-innings after the scores were tied at 0-0 after seven innings. With Japan leading 3-0 after the top of the frame, pinch hitter Francesca Hammoude tied it on a monster home run. Charla Echols followed with a two-out stand up triple and scored the World Championship run on a slow roller by Jasmine Freed.
WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!! 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/D5iyRi8YYx
— WBSC #U19SoftballWC (@WBSCsoftball) August 17, 2019
The game went quickly through seven innings, mostly due to the intense duel between the top pitchers of the tournament. Japan’s left hander Miu Goto relied more on off-speed trickery, while USA right hander Megan Faraimo looked overpowering for most of the day. Both had an impressive command of the ball, with Faraimo boasting well over 70% of strikes.
Faraimo had allowed only a hit entering the seventh. In the top of the eighth, with Shiraishi standing at second as per the tie break rule, Japan failed to bunt the runner to third. Shuri Kasahara was all over the second pitch by Faraimo, for a double to deep left field to put Japan ahead. Mahiro Takahashi followed with an RBI-single and it looked like it was the game when a sharp grounder by Sakura Fukushige went by the second baseman.
It was all for Faraimo. The ball went to Montana Fouts and smart thinking by shortstop Jasmine Reese got the USA out of the inning. Reese couldn’t get a play at first on a deep grounder by Rino Setoguchi. But she saw Yui Nakagawa going beyond the third-base bag and got her with the throw to Rebecca Jones.
Jadelyn Allchin-Curran led off the bottom half of the frame with a blooper to the middle infield. Shortstop Ako Imamura couldn’t get there despite a brave diving attempt and the tie-break runner Bailey Dowling touched third. Kelly Lynch became the first out on a fly to the right and Nakagawa’s respectable arm stopped runners at first and third.
Francesca Hammoude had only nine at-bats in the tournament so far. She had a one-ball count when she looked at a perfect change up by Goto. She stood back on the second changeup she saw and hammered it well beyond the left-field wall.
“With Godin coming up, I knew I had to get ready,” said Francesca Hammoude after the game “we needed more a big hit than a slap at that time. I tried to stay as calm as possible. We had scouted Japan and we had practised real hard on hitting the changeup”.
She added: “Right now, it feels real good.”
Charla Echols made it to the box with two outs, the bases empty and no one on. She looked at two balls, then she slammed the third pitch off the wall in centre field for a stand-up triple despite a brave attempt by Nakagawa.
Jasmine Freed went down 1-2 in the count, then hit a slow roller. Shortstop Ako Imamura charged as hard as possible, but couldn’t get to the ball. Echols rushed home to score the World Championship run.
USA head coach Heather Tarr praised her players: “We are tough and resilient. We knew it was tough to overcome a three-run deficit against a pitcher who hadn’t allowed an earned run in the tournament, but we still knew we could do.”
When you pick a pinch-hitter who hits a game-tying home run, a lot of credit goes to the manager: “We were all thinking that Hammoude could come up with the big it at the right time. I’m obviously glad we did it”.
Japan’s head coach Yosuke Sato spoke through an interpreter.
If you could go back, would you throw two changeups in a row to Hammoude: “I never think about that, since it’s impossible to go back.”
Did you think about going to the bullpen, after the USA tied the game? “No, never”.
You came real close to winning. What can you possibly do more to defeat the USA: “I believe this tournament will prove a very good experience for us and that this will help us improve, next time we face the USA.”