TOKYO — The American softball team, behind the pitching of the everlasting Kat Osterman, defeated a determined Italy team 2-0 as softball returned to the Olympics on Wednesday for the first time since 2008.
Earlier, another gold contender, Japan started the Tokyo Games with an 8-1 win over Australia.
Osterman, 38, who won a gold medal in 2004 and a silver in 2008, came out of retirement for these Games. He threw six out of seven innings, leaving only one hit and one out of nine.
Monica Abbott played the seventh and final innings for the United States and dismissed the team.
Although Italy could not attack much, pitching from Greta Cecchetti and Alexia Lacatena kept the game close. The United States got only five hits and scored on a single and a sacrificial fly in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Japan-Australia game started with a ball and ended with a home run.
Leadoff hitter for the Australian softball team Michelle Cox took a low pitch from Japan pitcher Yukiko Ueno at an empty stadium in Fukushima on Wednesday in the first competitive act of the Tokyo Olympics.
The pitch – after pregame pageantry that included the introduction of several officials and dignitaries – officially kicked off a version of the games that were years in the making and delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic.
It was also the last offensive draw for Australia. Japan responded with a run of their own at the bottom of the first, two in the third and three in the fourth. And when Yu Yamamoto hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, Japan’s lead was 8-1 and mercy rule was applied, game ouver.
It is not unusual for Olympic competition to start before the opening ceremony, the result of a tight schedule and extended tournaments that may require longer than the Games’ official 17-day window to complete.