Junior Women’s World Championship Gold Medal game showed competitive level


Although 2011’s was the ninth such 19-and-under tournament since the ISF began the event in 1981, this one had some ‘firsts.’

Last weekend (on December 17) the United States defeated Japan, 4-1, in the gold medal game of the International Softball Federation’s IX Jr. Women’s World Championship. The victory accomplished two things for the winners: it enabled them to turn the tables on a Japanese team that had shut them out, 9-0, the day before, and, it meant a successful defense of their title from the previous edition of the event (2007 in the Netherlands).

Although 2011’s was the ninth such 19-and-under tournament since the ISF began the event in 1981, this one had some ‘firsts.’

This was the first time that the tournament was played on the African continent, with Cape Town, South Africa, being the 2011 host. Although each of these teams has medaled at the event before, it was the first time that the order of finish was USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei. And, it was the first time that the winning team in the gold medal game scored more than three runs. (In a statistical oddity, the first four junior women’s world championships all ended with a 1-0 gold medal game and the next four all saw three runs scored by the team that won the gold medal game.)

In the title game just over a week ago, it took just one swing of the bat to snap that streak. USA got four runs on a Cheyenne Tarango grand slam home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Japan got their lone run in the sixth, with American pitcher Lauren Haeger closing the door with a complete-game performance that saw her strike out seven and limit the silver medalists to five hits, less than 24 hours after they’d recorded eleven against three U.S. pitchers.

Yuka Nakamura, who relieved starter Shiho Kitaoka in the third inning, took the loss in the circle for Japan.

Chinese Taipei finished as the bronze medalist after falling 12-3 to the United States, missing their chance to advance to their first-ever junior women’s world championship gold medal game. They were down only 2-1 to the Americans after four innings, but gave up five runs in the top of the fifth and then again in the sixth, with Hallie Wilson finishing 3-for-4 at the plate, including two home runs.

With the ISF switching to a new format of every two years for world championships starting in 2012, the next junior women’s world championship will now take place in 2013.