Japan wins second straight by downing Netherlands


Japan overcame a shaky start to beat the Netherlands 8-3 in the baseball tournament of the Athens Olympics on Monday for its second victory in as many games in the preliminary round.

News photoHirotoshi Ishii delivers a pitch against the Netherlands during Monday’s game at the Olympic
Baseball Centre. Japan won 8-3.

Michihiro Ogasawara drew a bases-loaded walk to put Japan ahead 4-3 in the fifth inning and Atsushi Fujimoto hit a two-run homer in a four-run eighth that effectively put away the game at the Olympic Baseball Centre.

Hiroshima Carp right-hander Hiroki Kuroda pitched five scoreless innings in relief of Hisashi Iwakuma, who made an uncharacteristically rocky start and was chased after only 1 2/3 innings.

Iwakuma, who leads the Pacific League with 13 wins and a 2.34 ERA, allowed a run on an RBI groundout by Ivanon Coffie in the first inning before getting into more serious trouble in the second.

With the score tied at 1-1, the Kintetsu Buffaloes right-hander allowed a bases-loaded single to Eugene Kingsale and gave up another run on an RBI groundout by Coffie that made it 3-1.

He left the game after walking Sharnol Adriana to reload the bases, before Hirotoshi Ishii ended the scare.

“I got a bit nervous. I thank my teammates for the come-from-behind victory. I’ll try again to put on my best performance in my next outing,” said Iwakuma, who allowed three hits and four walks.

Japan came back in the fifth when Norihiro Nakamura drove home the tying run with a double, and then capitalized on the wildness of Diego Markwell, who issued back-to-back walks to Yoshitomo Tani and Ogasawara for the go-ahead run.

“It was a tough game. And winning a tough game is significant for this team,” a clearly relieved Nakahata said after the game against a team made up mostly of minor league players based in North America.

Japan, which thrashed Italy 12-0 in its opening game Sunday, next plays tournament favorite Cuba on Tuesday in the eight-team preliminary round from which four teams advance to the semifinals.

Japanese women lose again

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japan’s softball players, unable to find their rhythm in their quest to claim the gold medal at the Athens Olympics, suffered their second straight loss in a scoreless extra-inning tiebreaker, falling 1-0 to Canada on a costly error on Tuesday.

With one out in the top of the eighth, Jackie Lance scored from third base as first baseman Kazue Ito let Erin White’s grounder pass her and starter Lauren Bay struck out two in the bottom of the frame to wrap up the game at Olympic Softball Stadium.

Japan, the silver medal winner at the 2000 Sydney Games, has a 1-3 record in the preliminary round-robin contested among eight teams. Canada improved to 2-2.

Yukiko Ueno tossed perfectly until two outs in the seventh and allowed only one hit as she went the distance, but she had to settle for her second loss in Athens after Japanese batters failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities and left nine runners stranded.

On Monday, the Japanese squad also lost in the eighth inning tiebreaker, 3-0 to the United States, the two-time defending champion which shut out China 4-0 on Tuesday for its fourth victory without a loss.