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Japan shocks USA for softball gold

Japanese players surround pitcher Yukiko Ueno (C) as they celebrate the last out, as Japan wins the gold medal against the USA women's team, 3-1, at Fengtai Softball Field, August 21, 2008, at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The USA team had beaten Japan in an earlier match. Australia won the bronze. (UPI Photo/Mike Theiler)
Japanese players surround pitcher Yukiko Ueno (C) as they celebrate the last out, as Japan wins the gold medal against the USA women's team, 3-1, at Fengtai Softball Field, August 21, 2008, at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The USA team had beaten Japan in an earlier match. Australia won the bronze. (UPI Photo/Mike Theiler) | License Photo

BEIJING, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The seemingly robotic right arm of Yukiko Ueno gave Japan a shocking 3-1 win over the United States Thursday as well as the Olympic gold medal in softball.

Ueno pitched 28 innings over the course of two days, the last seven of them coming in the gold medal final.

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Although the United States defeated Japan twice in the Olympics, the medal-round formula that is unique to softball brought those two countries together again to determine the champion.

Ueno lost a 4-2, 9-inning decision to the Americans to start the medal round Wednesday and then threw 12 innings later in the day before the Japanese finally defeated Australia 4-3. That left Australia with the bronze medal and put Japan into the title game.

Ueno was back in action Thursday, allowing only a solo homer to Crystl Bustos in the fourth inning and stranding seven Americans on base. Bustos hit a three-run homer off Ueno on Wednesday and her blast Thursday reduced the United States' deficit to 2-1.

The Japanese managed two runs against Cat Osterman, including a solo homer in the top of the fourth by Eri Yamada that turned out to be the game-winner.

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The United States had won 22 consecutive Olympic contests and all three gold medals since the sport entered the Games in 1996.

The International Olympic Committee has voted to remove softball and baseball from the 2012 Games in London. Governing bodies for those sports have petitioned for their return in 2016.

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