Softball returned to the Games for the first time since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But it's not on the program for Paris in 2024. The six-team tournament featured defending Olympic champion Japan and the powerhouse U.S. team that won gold in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens.
And, while decisions need to be made off the field about the future of the sport in the Olympics, the action on the field in Tokyo remained as competitive as ever.
Silver: United States
Japan defeats U.S. for gold
It was the second straight Olympics the U.S and Japan squared off for Olympic gold and the host nation was not going to allow their American rivals to spoil their party.
Veteran Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno quieted the American bats, allowing just two hits over the first five innings and then returning in relief in the seventh to secure the final three outs in a 2-0 win.
Yamato Fujita led Japans offense with two hits, an RBI and run scored.
Janie Reed’s spectacular catch
The Americans' loss in the gold medal game was not without some highlight-reel material, the most spectacular of which was Janie Reed's acrobatic catch to rob Fujita of a two-run home run.
With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the seventh inning, Reed vaulted belt-high to the top of the left field fence to pull back a certain home run. The inning-ending play kept the game within reach for Team USA, but they failed to score in the bottom of the frame.
Reed was involved in another highlight when she smacked a first-inning triple, but was thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch.
Canada wins bronze
Canada, eliminated from gold medal contention by Japan earlier in the tournament, and Mexico, making its Olympic softball debut, battled for Olympic bronze.
Canada bolted to an early lead with two runs in the second. But Mexico tied the game with runs in the third and fifth.
Canada’s Kelsey Harshman drove in the game-winning run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly.
Canada’s walk out, Japan’s walk-off
Canada’s gold medals hope were dashed in a dramatic semifinal game that saw the Canadians walk off the field in protest of a substitution dispute with game officials.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Canada’s coach Mark Smith pulled starting pitcher Jenna Caira for veteran Danielle Lawrie. While Lawrie was warming up, Smith started an animated discussion with officials about substitution protocols, which allow some players to leave and then re-enter a game. Smith pulled his team off the field in protest. After a lengthy delay and more discussion, however, Canada re-took the field with Lawrie on the mound.
Three innings later with the score tied 0-0, Lawrie would surrender the only run of the game on a single by Japan’s Eri Yamada.