Canada clips China to stay alive

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Katie Cochran singled in two runs in a four-run first inning and the United States went on to beat Japan 4-0 on Thursday and reach the final of the softball world championships.

The United States will try to make it seven consecutive world titles Friday. The U.S. will play Japan or Canada.

The Canadians narrowly defeated China 1-0 late Thursday, setting up a game against Japan.

Many are expecting the U.S. to meet Japan in the finals -- a potential matchup that would stir emotions among veteran players on both teams. Instead of capping their sport's fourth Olympic appearance with a fourth gold medal in the 2008 games in Beijing, the Americans lost 3-1 to Japan.

U.S. manager Jay Miller praised pitcher Cat Osterman for holding down Japan's offense.

"With Catherine on the mound, there's nothing better ... it makes things a lot easier for our defense," Miller said. "She shut the door and they weren't able to score."

Japan pitcher Sayuri Yamane gave up four hits and four runs.

"The result of this game isn't what we wanted, but we are going to work hard to improve," Yamane said through an interpreter. "We have to improve our defense."

Miller said he has not yet decided who will pitch in the finals.

"We've got four great pitchers and they'll all be ready tomorrow," he said.

Asked if he's worried the unbeaten U.S. squad could be feeling over confident, Miller responded: "They remember what happened in Beijing."

In the earlier game, Mel Matthews hit a two-run, go-ahead single in the in the seventh inning to give Canada a 3-2 victory against Australia, which was eliminated.

Australia led 2-0, when Erin Cumpston and Kaleigh Rafter singled to start Canada's rally.

Corriene Dommberg followed with an RBI single and Matthews drove in Rafter and Dommberg to win it.

Earlier, China eliminated host Venezuela 6-1.

Venezuela president Hugo Chavez attended the game to cheer for his team and chat with players in the dugout. He congratulated the Chinese squad following the game. China's players gathered around the socialist leader for a group photograph.