U.S. begins pursuit of softball gold with win over Italy on first day of play at Tokyo Olympics

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Cat Osterman dominated as the United States began its quest to regain the Olympic softball gold medal, 13 years after she lost the championship game, pitching one-hit ball over six innings and striking out nine to beat Italy 2-0 on Wednesday.

Michelle Moultrie singled in a run in the fourth inning for the top-ranked U.S., which lost the title to Japan 3-1 at the 2008 Beijing Games. Janie Reed added a sacrifice fly.

Osterman, a 38-year-old left-hander, walked none on a humid afternoon with a 94-degree temperature that was even more steamy on the artificial turf. The last remaining player from the 2004 gold medalists, she improved to 6-1 in Olympic play with 66 strikeouts in 38 innings.

In the second game played in a virtually empty stadium, Andrea Filler had Italy’s only hit, singling to left leading off the fourth.

Monica Abbott, a 35-year-old lefty who is the other U.S. veteran from 2008, struck out the side in the seventh for the save.

Greta Cecchetti, a pitcher for Texas A&M Corpus Christi, allowed two runs and four hits in four-plus innings while picking up the loss.

Valerie Arioto led off the fourth with an infield hit up the middle, beating the throw from second baseman Andrea Filler. Ali Aguilar sacrificed, and Moultrie grounded a single on the hard artificial turf and past Filler and into right field, sending Arioto sliding across the plate.

Alexia Lacatena, an 18-year-old from Stanhope, New Jersey, who will pitch for the University of Kentucky next spring, relieved and allowed a sacrifice fly to Reed.

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