IWAKUNI, Japan – The world-ranked No. 1 U.S. Women’s National Team (WNT) opened the 2023 Japan All-Star Series in thrilling fashion, sealing a 12-11 extra inning victory to kick off the three-game series in the win column. A true team effort from both sides of the field, the U.S. offense totaled 17 hits in the win while the pitching staff showed its depth with NiJaree Canady, Ruby Meylan and Valerie Cagle each contributing in the circle.
One of six athletes getting their debut in the Red, White and Blue in today’s opening game was Canady who got the start on the rubber for Team USA while temporarily handing duties over to Meylan in the bottom of the fifth and Cagle in the bottom of the sixth before taking back the reigns for the final seven outs of the game. Together, the three U.S. pitchers retired 10 batters via a strikeout with Canady leading the pack behind seven Ks and five scoreless innings.
The U.S. offense came to play, combining for an impressive 17 hits in the win – including four long balls off the bats of Megan Grant (2), Cagle (1) and Jayda Kearney (1). A force throughout the entire lineup, nine U.S. batters recorded at least one hit in the win while five recorded a multi-hit game. Grant led the Eagles at the plate with a 4-for-6 performance, including two singles and two home runs, followed by Cagle (3-for-6) and Kearney (2-for-5).
Despite a quiet first at-bat, the U.S. offense came alive in the top of the second thanks to back-to-back singles from Team USA rookies Alex Honnold and Kearney to score the first U.S. run of the game followed by another run in the top of the third courtesy of a long ball from Grant. Maintaining the pressure, Kearney kept things rolling in the top of the fourth with a solo shot over the left field fence followed by a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases and set the stage for RBI singles from Cagle and Grant capped with a bases loaded walk to score three and put the Eagles on top, 6-0.
After being silenced through the first three innings of the game, the Japanese offense responded in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run home run to cut the U.S. lead, 6-3, before adding four more in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead, 7-6. That didn’t hold long, though, as Grant sent her second ball out of the park to tie the game, 7-7, followed by a fielding miscue to allow another run to score for an 8-7 U.S. lead in the top of the sixth.
The Japanese offense continued to challenge the lead, scoring on a wild pitch and an error before sending a two-run home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the inning to put the U.S. down, 8-11. The Eagles remained cool and unfazed, though, quickly responding in the top of the seventh courtesy of a two-run home run from Cagle and a clutch RBI double from Honnold to even the score, 11-11. Buckling down on defense, Team USA kept the Japanese off the board through the bottom of the inning to force the game into extras. With a runner placed on second, Hansen stepped in to send a deep fly ball to left field that allowed the runner to tag and advance 60 feet before an infield error allowed the runner to score and give Team USA a one-run edge. Remaining solid in the bottom of the eighth, Canady and the U.S. offense proved superior with a pop out, strikeout and fly out to seal the game 1 victory, 12-11.
The Eagles return to action in Fukushima, Japan on Sunday, August 6 at 2 p.m. JST/12 a.m. CT before capping the three-game series in Yokohama, Japan on Monday, August 7 at 7 p.m. JST/5 a.m. CT. The following two contests will take place at the two Tokyo Olympic softball venues – Azuma Stadium (Fukushima, Japan) and Yokohama Stadium (Yokohama, Japan) – which also played host to last year’s Japan All-Star Series where more than 17,000 fans attended.
Due to live streaming restrictions in Japan, USA Softball is unable to provide streaming of this event. To follow along via live stats, please follow the 2023 U.S. Women’s National Team on GameChanger.