An American softball player hit a walk-off home run in her first Olympics to help Team USA avenge its 2008 final loss to Japan

An American softball player hit a walk-off home run in her first Olympics to help Team USA avenge its 2008 final loss to Japan
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Kelsey Stewart
Kelsey Stewart celebrates while rounding second base after hitting a walk-off home run in the seventh inning as Mana Atsumi looks on during softball opening round on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on July 26, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images
  • Kelsey Stewart hit a walk-off home run for Team USA to beat Japan 2-1 in the Tokyo Olympics.

  • It was the first Olympics match between the two since Japan's win over Team USA in the 2008 final.

  • The USA will now face Japan in the gold medal game on Tuesday as the home team.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Kelsey Stewart hit a walk-off home run to give Team USA a 2-1 win against Japan in their fifth game of the Tokyo Olympics.

The 26-year-old third baseman came up with the USA's first home run of the tournament in her first Olympics appearance, and it's arguably the biggest hit of her life.

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Stewart won two national softball championships at the University of Florida in 2014-15, but this win came with the weight of some serious national bragging rights behind it.

Sunday's game was the first Olympics meeting between Team USA and Japan since the 2008 final in Beijing. Japan won that game 2-1 to claim gold. The US had to wait 13 years for its crack at revenge since softball has not been a featured event at the last two summer Olympics.

By virtue of that 2008 win, Japan is the defending champion even though no players are left on either team from that 2008 meeting. The USA had been the powerhouse of Olympic softball prior to that, winning the previous three gold medals in 2004, 2000, and 1996.

But Stewart helped her country take a step toward re-asserting itself as the top dog in Olympic softball on Saturday, giving The USA its second walk-off win in as many nights after Amanda Chidester hit a walk-off single in extra innings to beat Australia on Saturday.

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With the win, Team USA moved to a perfect 5-0 in the tournament and secured its spot as the home team in the gold medal game against Japan on Tuesday. While the USA will technically be the home team on Tuesday and will bat in the bottom half of innings, Japan will be defending its championship on its home turf with a lot of national pride at stake.

Tuesday will be The USA's chance to truly avenge its 2008 loss to Japan, and like 2008, Tuesday's game will carry a lasting legacy and determine the champion for the next seven years. Softball won't be at the Paris Olympics in 2024, and players and fans will have to wait until the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics for the sport to return to the world stage when the two countries will likely meet in some high-stakes battles on American turf.

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