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Olympics: Japan stays on course for softball gold showdown with US

Yu Yamamoto hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning of Japan's game against Italy in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympic softball tournament on July 24, 2021, at Yokohama baseball stadium near Tokyo. (Kyodo)

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- Yu Yamamoto broke up a scoreless game with a two-run fourth-inning home run as Japan downed Italy 5-0 to improve to three wins from three games and stay on a softball gold medal collision course with the United States at the Tokyo Olympics.

    Two-way player Yamato Fujita threw two scoreless innings at Yokohama baseball stadium before being relieved by lefty Miu Goto with a runner on second and no outs in the third.

    Goto, the winning pitcher of Japan's walk-off 3-2 win over Mexico on Thursday, struck out nine over five innings, and got the lead on Yamamoto's second home run of the tournament.

    "I'm glad I could get that hit when we really wanted a run," said Yamamoto. "It was a big team win."

    Fujita made it a 5-0 game in the sixth with her third home run of the Tokyo Games, a three-run shot.

    Italy's starting pitcher, Alexia Lacatena, did not allow a hit until Yamamoto took her deep in the fourth with a runner on.

    The top two teams from the six-team round-robin tournament will play for the gold medal with the third- and fourth-place teams meeting in the bronze game.

    The U.S. beat Mexico 2-0 earlier in the day to improve to 3-0, while Canada improved to 2-1 with a 7-1 win over Australia who sit fourth with a 1-2 record.

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