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Asian Games: Japan blanks China in semis, 1 win from 5th straight softball title

Saki Yamazaki at the Asian Games on Aug. 23, 2018. (Kyodo)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Japan blew out China 5-0 in its semifinal of the women's softball at the Asian Games on Thursday, moving a victory from clinching its fifth consecutive title.

In Friday's final, Japan awaits the winner of a morning game between China and Taiwan, with the loser taking the bronze according to the Page playoff system. Taiwan defeated the Philippines 6-3 in the other semifinal on Thursday.

Saki Yamazaki ignited Japan's offense in the first inning with an RBI double and Yu Yamamoto's two-run homer in the third gave the defending champions all the insurance they needed to put the game out of reach against the defending silver medalists.

Without having to use ace pitcher Yukiko Ueno, Japan's defense was strong enough to prevent China from mounting a serious challenge.

"I think it was a fast ball on the inside corner," cleanup hitter Yamamoto, who has been in top form, said about her drive to left after the game at GBK Softball Field. "I am only thinking of winning. I just do what I can."

Japan's coach Reika Utsugi credited leadoff hitter Eri Yamada for getting on base in the opening frame and also tipped her hat to the third and fourth batters, both of whom had solid performances.

"Regardless of who our next opponent is, the final is different from the previous games," Utsugi said. "I'd like to talk to players to get them to play in a calm state of mind."

Softball is returning at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after it was removed from the multisport event's summer program following the 2008 Beijing Games.

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