Brendan Kingman's sixth-inning single sent Australia to a 1-0 victory Tuesday over stunned Japan, putting the Aussies in the gold medal game.
Australia will play either Cuba or Canada for the title on Wednesday. Japan faces the loser of the other semifinal for the bronze.
A bunch of career minor leaguers led the Aussies to their biggest victory in international play. Australia failed to reach the medal round during the
2000 Sydney Games.
Kingman, a stocky first baseman whose minor league career included stints in the Florida Marlins and Seattle Mariners, provided the decisive two-out
hit in a game that came down to one swing.
Kingman, 31, singled off right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who led Japan to its biggest Olympic win earlier in the tournament -- a 6-3 victory over Cuba
in the preliminaries. This time, Japan's all-pro lineup froze up.
Right-hander Chris Oxspring gave up five hits and struck out five in 6 2-3 innings. Oxspring, 27, pitched out of the bullpen for San Diego's Triple-A
Portland Beavers before heading for Athens.
Japan's best threat came in the bottom of the seventh, when Oxspring retired the first two batters. A pair of errors put runners on first and third,
but right-hander Jeff Williams retired Atsushi Fujimoto on a popup.
Japan didn't get a hit the rest of the way off Williams, 32, who appeared in 37 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers before signing with Japan's Hanshin
Tigers last year.
The Aussie pitchers have one big advantage in the tournament -- experienced major league catcher Dave Nilsson is behind the plate.
Determined to reach the gold medal game, Japan sent a roster loaded with players from its pro leagues. Instead, it got the same disappointing
Japan sent a mix-and-match roster of pros and college players to Sydney, where it lost to Cuba in the semifinals and then to South Korea in the bronze
medal game. The best it can hope for this time is bronze.