BEIJING // The USA completed preliminary round play the way it began, with a crushing win, blasting past China 9-0 to set up a semi-final showdown with Japan. The mighty Americans scored all their runs in their first at bat then finished off the helpless hosts in five innings to close the preliminary round with an unblemished 7-0 while running their Olympic winning streak to 21 games. Six of the USA wins have been shutouts, five coming by way of the mercy rule, which halts play in the fifth inning if one team is ahead by seven runs.
The rout leaves the USA two wins away from a fourth and final gold medal with the sport to be dropped from the Olympic programme following the Beijing Games. The final two games of the preliminary round will be played later today and will determine which two teams will join the USA and Japan in the next round. Canada will take on Japan and can clinch a semi-final spot with a win while Australia will meet Venezuela in the other contest.
In other play, the Netherlands beat Taiwan 4-2 to notch their first victory of the Games. *Reuters