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Seventh-Inning Wretch

We're one inning away from what could be -- dare we say? -- the biggest upset of the Olympics. After six innings of play, Japan maintains a 2-1 lead over the Americans in the gold medal softball game, after the U.S. squandered a bases-loaded, one-out situation for the second time in the game.

It's hard to overstate how dominant the U.S. has been in this sport until tonight. The Americans have won the gold medal in softball in every Olympics in which the sport has been contested (it was voted off for 2012 and seeks reinstatement for 2016) and had outscored opponents 57-2 in romping to an 8-0 record during pool play.

In the sixth, center fielder Caitlin Lowe led off with a single to right, and was sacrificed to second by Jessica Mendoza (the Americans thought Mendoza beat the throw to first). But the choice to sacrifice only served to take the bat out of the hands of slugger Crystal Bustos, whom the Japanese decided to walk intentionally -- despite the fact she represented the go-ahead run.

When Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno walked U.S. right fielder Kelly Kretschman, it loaded the bases with one out -- the same situation the Americans created, but squandered, in the first inning.

Ueno got Andrea Duran to pop up to shortstop and Stacey Nuveman to fly out to end the inning.

By Dave Sheinin  |  August 21, 2008; 8:13 AM ET
Categories:  Softball  
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