Japan upset their hosts

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Japan beat the United States 11-2 on Thursday, denying the hosts their expected place in the final against Cuba, who beat Nicaragua 8-1.

"We have been looking forward to playing Cuba for the gold medal for 12 years." the Japan coach, Katsuji Kawashimahe, said. "We played almost perfectly."

Nicaragua and the United States now play for the bronze.

"They kept us off balance. We never really hit the ball hard all day," America's coach, Skip Bertman, said.

Kris Benson, America's best pitcher, was pounded for eight hits and four earned runs in four-plus innings, giving up a solo home run to Hideaki Okubo and a two-run second-inning shot to Makoto Imaoka which gave Japan a 3-0 lead.

Benson appeared to settle down but ran into trouble in the fifth inning when Takayuki Takabayashi led off with a home run. When Yasuyuki Saigo followed with a single, Bertman removed Benson in favour of Jeff Weaver but with little more success.

In 1984, when baseball became a demonstration sport at the Los Angles Olympics, Japan won the gold with the United States taking silver. In 1988 at Seoul, the Americans won gold and Japan silver. At Barcelona four years ago Japan earned a bronze with Cuba taking gold and Taiwan silver. The Americans were fourth.