The American and Japanese softball teams open with wins to start the games.

TOKYO – The U.S. softball team, behind eternal pitcher Cat Osterman, beat a stubborn Italian team 2-0 as softball returned to the Olympics on Wednesday for the first time since 2008.

Earlier, Japan, another gold contender, had started the Tokyo Games with an 8-1 victory over Australia.

Osterman, 38, who won a gold in 2004 and a silver in 2008, has come out of retirement for those games. She pitched six of seven innings, allowing just one hit and striking out nine.

Monica Abbott pitched the seventh and final inning for the United States and struck out the strike side.

Although Italy couldn’t muster a lot of offense, pitchers Greta Cecchetti and Alexia Lacatena kept the game close. The United States had just five hits and scored their runs in the fourth and fifth innings on a single and sacrifice fly.

The Japan-Australia game started with a ball and ended with a home run.

Michelle Cox, the Australian softball team’s first hitter, took a low blow from Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno at an empty stadium in Fukushima on Wednesday in the first competitive act of the Tokyo Olympics.

The pitch – after a bit of pre-match pageantry that included the introduction of several officials and dignitaries – officially kicked off an edition of the Games that had been brewing for years and was delayed for a year by the pandemic of coronavirus.

It was also Australia’s last offensive highlight. Japan responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, two in the third and three in the fourth. And when Yu Yamamoto hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, Japan’s lead was 8-1 and the leniency rule was invoked, ending the game.

It is not uncommon for Olympic competition to begin before the Opening Ceremony, a consequence of a tight schedule and extensive tournaments that can take longer than the official 17-day window of the Games.

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