BUSAN, Korea, Republic Of — Ayami Sato fashioned a three-hitter while striking out 11 Canadian batters and the Japanese offence took advantage of some defensive miscues to hand Canada an 8-2 opening game loss on Saturday at the women's baseball World Cup.
"She (Sato) proved why she's one of the top pitchers in the world," said Canadian Manager Andre Lachance. "What she did tonight was impressive. We had little answer for her after taking an early lead."
Yukiko Kawabata drove in two runs and Ayako Rokkaku went 3 for 3 with three runs scored for the defending champion and top-ranked Japanese team.
Niki Boyd had both RBI's for No. 4 Canada, which placed fourth at the last World Cup in 2014.
Autumn Mills allowed five runs, three earned, in 4 1/3 innings to shoulder the loss. Mills gave up six hits, walked three and struck out four.
Canada has four World Cup medals — one silver and three bronze — since the biennial tournament began in 2004.
A two-out, bases-loaded single to right field from Boyd scored Jenna Flannigan and Jenn Gilroy in the bottom of the second to give Canada a 2-0 lead.
Japan answered back in the top of third to tie the game. Rokkaku singled with one out off Mills before swiping both second and third, and later scored on a wild pitch. After a walk and single put runs on the corners, a successful double steal brought in the tying run.
Japan went out in front in the top of the fourth as Mills hit the lead-off batter, who later advanced to second on a groundout for the second out of the inning before Yaya Kojima hit an 0-1 pitch into left for an RBI single.
Mills got into trouble in the fifth as a walk, bunt single and hit batter loaded the bases with one out before a single dropped into right field to make it 4-2. Lachance then went to centre-fielder Claire Eccles to come on in relief.
Eccles started what could have been an inning-ending double play, but catcher Gilroy's throw to first hit the runner, allowing the second Japan run of the inning to score.
"There's little margin for error when you're playing Japan," Lachance said. "If you give them the slightest bit of room, they normally take advantage of those types of situations and make you pay. There were a few situations like that tonight."
Sato retired 14 of the next 15 batters she faced after Boyd's single.
Japan added a run in the sixth before plating two more in the seventh, both coming on a two-out single with the bases loaded.
"I think tonight was important for our team in the sense that we played with them for a few innings," said Lachance. "We know we have to be mistake-free against them but they are beatable.
"We need to move on from this one though and get ready for India tomorrow."