Japan saved the best for the last, as their wrested the 3rd Asian Universities Women Softball Asia Cup 2022 title for the first in their third attempt, when they downed Chinese Taipei 5-4 in tie-breaker, at Rugby International schools ground on pitch A in Pattaya, Thailand, this afternoon.
In a nail-biting match, which saw Chinese Taipei come from behind to level 4-4 in the inning, and when the match looked like it could swing either way, Japan’s catcher Chihiro Mekada led the team to victory, making the crucial winning hit in the 8th inning, as Japan scored its 5th run to end the match.
The 22-year, Physical Education undergraduate, also executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to help bring in the run in the first inning and got on base twice on walks. She also made a crucial throw in the 8th inning, taking out the Chinese-Taipei runner Wu Yu Hsin on third base to hold Chinese-Taipei to a scoreless 8th inning
Japan’s head coach Kyoko Kida through interpreter Akiko Kamida said that it longer than she expected to defeat Chinese Taipei, but they remained composed to strike when it mattered most.
Japan’s delegation leader Rie Sato added that Chinese Taipei also played better than they did on Friday in their Super Round match when they won 5-0.
“But I believed in my players and they rightfully delivered. And at the crucial moment when we relied on Makeda, she delivered. I was confident she will rise to the occasion as she has been performing consistently throughout the tournament.
But Makeda was modest in her moment of glory.
“When I walked onto the pitch at the crucial tie-breaker inning, I was calm and just wanted to give my best shot. As it turned out I hit a home run. That was elation,” said Makeda who graduates early next year
“I was not pressured because I knew if failed to deliver I had equally talented players coming after me, who could deliver the winning run.”
Makeda was fittingly rewarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament.Coach Kida added, it was indeed great to have won the tournament for the first time after three attempts having finished third in the previous two championships.
“We came here with the aim to win the tournament and I am glad that we delivered.”
Kida said that their hope to defend the title successfully, but said will have to start afresh as a majority of the players will be graduating.
For Chinese Taipei who were playing in their third consecutive final, it was a case of luck running on them.
They had won the inaugural tournament, before bowing out to China in the last edition.
Chinese Taipei on Friday in the Super Round match who made a dramatic entry to the final, nearly saw Korea create an upset to deny them a berth in the final, when Korea led 2-0 from the first inning, but the latter made a late comeback with a run in the sixth and seventh inning to pull level and force the game into tie-breaker to win 3-2.
Naturally, they were looking forward to another tie-breaker win but it was not to be despite making a strong comeback and had many opportunities to seal the game.
FINAL DAY RESULTS
(Gold Medal) Japan 4 Chinese Taipei 4 ( Japan won 5-4 in tie-breaker)
(Bronze Medal) Korea 9 Singapore 2
1. Japan 2. Chinese Taipei 3. Korea 4. Singapore 5.Thailand 6. Hong Kong 7. Malaysia 8. India