BRAMPTON, Ont. - University of Oregon freshmen Cheridan Hawkins and Danica Mercado and the USA Softball Junior National Team punched their ticket for Sunday's Junior World Championships gold medal game with a 4-0 win over Japan Saturday afternoon.

Team USA (9-0) handed Japan (8-1) its first tourney loss after scoring one run in the fourth inning, two more in the fifth and another run in the seventh.

In the circle, Hawkins (4-0) allowed only one hit in her seven-inning effort and notched her fourth shutout in the tourney.

The Anderson, Calif., native struck out eight, walked one, hit one batter, and her only hit allowed came in the seventh inning - a lead-off single by Chiharu Aoki on a 2-1 pitch.

Fellow Duck frosh Danica Mercado rapped a single for the sixth straight game. The Temecula, Calif., native went 1-for-3 with a single to lead off the fifth inning, and later came around to score three batters later on a double by Emily Crane.

The latter player was the lone American with multiple hits (2-for-4, RBI), and four others hit safely once.

Taking the loss, Japanese starter Miki Kozono pitched the first 4.1 innings, struck out two, walked none, allowed five hits, and two of her three runs allowed were earned.

Reliever Nana Okamura pitched the final 2.2 innings, struck out two, walked none, and yielded three hits and one earned run.

“We came out on fire and ready to play today,” USA Head Coach Tairia Flowers said. “We had a couple innings where we played a little too relaxed, but we had some clutch hits when it was time.  Cheridan had another great performance in the circle, and our defense made some key plays.  All those things added up and everyone worked together to pull out the win.  We still haven’t played our best softball yet, so I’m really excited to get these girls back out on the field to see what we are truly capable of.”

USA broke the scoreless deadlock in the top of the fourth inning, thanks to a single by Crane, error by the shortstop and two-out single by Lauren Young.

Mercado scored the Americans' second run in the fifth inning after her single, an error by the second baseman and double by Crane. Haylie McCleney scored the next at-bat on a sacrifice fly by Mysha Sataraka.

In the seventh inning, USA's final run came came across thanks to a doubles by Sierra Lawrence and McCleney.

Looking ahead to 11 a.m. Pacific Time Sunday, the U.S. will face the winner of the morning's bronze medal match-up between Japan and Australia.

Team USA has played in each of the seven previous championship games, with wins over China (1987) and Japan (1995, 2007, 2011), and losses to Japan (1991, 1999, 2003).

 

BOXSCORE
United States  4 Japan  0

                                 YTD                                   YTD
USA                AB  R  H BI   AVG  JPN                AB  R  H BI   AVG
H.McCleney CF       4  1  1  1  .333  M.Okuda SS          3  0  0  0  .333
K.Stewart DP        4  0  1  0  .286  C.Enomoto CF        3  0  0  0  .143
E.Crane RF          4  1  2  1  .571  M.Naito DP          2  0  0  0  .000
M.Sataraka 3B       2  0  0  1  .400  C.Aoki C            3  0  1  0  .167
S.Romero SS         3  0  1  0  .500   Y.Aoyagi PR        0  0  0  0  .000
J.Plaza C           3  0  0  0  .200  R.Yamashita 1B      2  0  0  0  .333
L.Young 1B          3  0  1  1  .400  R.Narasaki 3B       1  0  0  0  .000
S.Lawrence LF       3  1  1  0  .333   S.Someya 3B        2  0  0  0  .000
D.Mercado 2B        3  1  1  0  .333  F.Matsumoto 2B      2  0  0  0  .250
                                      M.Tanaka LF         2  0  0  0  .000
                                      H.Hirakawa RF       2  0  0  0  .000
                   29  4  8  4                           22  0  1  0

USA                  0 0 0   1 2 0   1 -  4  8  0
JPN                  0 0 0   0 0 0   0 -  0  1  3
2B--H.McCleney (1), E.Crane 2 (2), S.Romero (1), S.Lawrence (1).
RBI--H.McCleney (1), E.Crane (1), M.Sataraka (2), L.Young (1). HP--M.Naito
(1). SF--M.Sataraka (1). SB--R.Yamashita (1). CS--K.Stewart (1), E.Crane
(1). E--M.Okuda (1), R.Narasaki (1), F.Matsumoto (1).
LOB--USA 5, JPN 3. DP--L. Young(1B) - M. Sataraka(3B).
                                                                YTD
                                 IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR     ERA
 USA
C.Hawkins (W,2-0)               7.0   1   0   0   1   8   0    0.00
                                7     1   0   0   1   8   0
 JPN
M.Kozono (L,0-1)                4.1   5   3   2   0   2   0    3.23
N.Okamura                       2.2   3   1   1   0   2   0    2.63
                                7     8   4   3   0   4   0
WP--C.Hawkins (1). HB--C.Hawkins (2). SO--S.Romero, J.Plaza 2, S.Lawrence,
C.Enomoto 3, M.Naito, C.Aoki 2, F.Matsumoto, M.Tanaka. BB--R.Yamashita.
BF--C.Hawkins 24 (39), M.Kozono 21 (21), N.Okamura 9 (9). P-S--C.Hawkins
101-68, M.Kozono 91-60, N.Okamura 34-22. T--2:06.  

Weather: Sunny and Hot, mild breeze
Umpires: Plate Ump - Houison, Field Ump #1 - Cruz, Field Ump #2 - Waller, Field Ump #3 - Jeon