With one swing, Sheila Cornell restored the reputation of the U.S. softball team.
Cornell drove a pitch from Lihong Wang, China's ace who had just come on in relief, over the centerfield fence for a two-run homer in the sixth inning and a 3-2 victory over China before a sellout crowd of 8,500 Saturday.
Kim Maher opened the sixth with a walk off Yaju Liu, who was replaced by Lihong. Cornell followed with her third homer of the Olympics.
U.S. pitcher Michelle Smith gave up a two-run homer to Xuqing Liu in the sixth, but hung in for the victory.
The United States _ stunned 2-1 by Australia on Friday for its only loss in the seven-game round-robin tournament _ reclaimed the role of gold-medal favorite with the No. 1 seed in Monday's semifinal round. The U.S. team (6-1) plays Japan (4-2). China (5-2) faces Australia (5-2). The medal games are Tuesday.
The Americans scored first in the second inning after consecutive singles by Kim Maher, Cornell and Dionna Harris. China starter Ying Ma was replaced by Yaju, who was greeted by a sacrifice fly by Gillian Boxx.
The United States threatened to break it open when Leah O'Brien singled to left, reloading the bases. But Laura Berg bounced into a force out at the plate and Dot Richardson struck out.
Smith allowed five hits _ four in the fifth _ and struck out 12.
In other games, Australia beat Canada 5-2; the Netherlands defeated Puerto Rico 2-0; and Japan beat Tawain 5-1.