US, Japan stay on top in world championship

CARACAS, Venezuela — Jennie Finch hit a grand slam to lead the United States to a 16-1 victory against Canada and remain unbeaten in the world softball championships on Wednesday.

The United States and Japan, which beat Venezuela 2-0 earlier in the day, are both 8-0 heading into their matchup Thursday in the double-elimination playoff phase of the tournament.

Venezuela plays China on Thursday.

The finals are Friday and Japan and the U.S. are the overwhelming favorites to play for the title.

Japan defeated the United States in the final game in the 2008 Olympics to take gold.

“Any time we play Japan, it’s a tough game,” said pitcher Monica Abbott, who struck out five. “We’ll be ready for them.”

The defending world champion U.S. started fast against Canada with a three-run double by Alissa Haber in the first inning. Natasla Watley added a two-run double to center in the second.

“I was real proud the way we came out today,” U.S. manager Jay Miller, who is the head coach at Mississipi State, said. “With Monica on the mound, we don’t need that many hits.”

Finch went deep in the fifth.

“It felt like it had a good chance,” Finch said.

Abbott’s pitching arm was wrapped with an ice pack. Miller said he hadn’t decided who will pitch Thursday, but he said if Abbott’s arm was OK she would go.

In other games, China eliminated Taiwan with a 1-0 victory and Australia edged out the Netherlands 3-2.

The Associated Press

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