Four years ago, USA wins Women’s Softball World Championship with walk-off, earns Tokyo 2020 Olympic ticket

Four years ago, USA wins Women’s Softball World Championship with walk-off, earns Tokyo 2020 Olympic ticket
The WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship 2018 was the first Olympic Qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 softball event.

Four years ago today, USA repeated as the World Champions in softball, winning it all in front of almost 12,000 fans at Chiba, ZOZO Marine Stadium. The American team defeated Japan, 7-6, on a walkoff single by Kelsey Stewart in the tenth inning, and went undefeated in the tournament.

The softball global flagship competition featured 73 games across 10 days of competition. The 30,000-seat Chiba Marine Stadium, home of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club Chiba Lotte Marines, hosted the Playoffs and Finals, while NASPA Stadium, Akitsu Stadium and ZETT A Ball Park hosted the Preliminary and Consolation Rounds.

The final was arguably one the best games in the history of the Softball World Championships. The best two teams in the world, Japan and USA, clashed in an epic battle that will last forever in the memory of softball fans.

After a cardiac roller-coaster game, Kelsey Stewart came to the box in the bottom of the 10th inning and two outs, with the winning run on third, but Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno jumped ahead with two strikes. Ueno tried to finish her with an outside pitch, but Stewart connected an opposite field single down the third base line to end it.

“It feels amazing. Every single person on this group has been working for this. It was so incredible…all the emotions…what a night,” said Stewart after the game. What was the key in getting to that pitch by Ueno? “I think the secret was staying with myself. I didn’t tray to do too much, because I was sure she would provide the power.”

“I felt very guilty because I allowed the game to be reversed after a three-run lead, which is a pretty big lead in softball,” recalled Ueno during an interview with WBSC during the WBSC Congress 2022. “I think that we were able to learn things because we lost that game, and it was because we lost that we were able to win in the end.”

Earlier that day, Japan knocked Canada out of the tournament to get into the Final, which also made USA the first team to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and join host/automatically qualified Japan in the Games.