TOKYO, Japan –– Behind the arm of Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.), the U.S. Olympic Softball Team edged past No. 3 Canada with a 1-0 shutout win in Game 2 of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Abbott tossed a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts while limiting the Canada offense to one hit through seven innings. The U.S. offense combined for seven hits on the day with Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) pushing their solo run across the plate in the top of fifth.
“It’s a rivalry anytime any of these Olympic teams get together and today you saw that,” said U.S. Olympic Team Head Coach, Ken Eriksen. “The Canada pitching staff did a great job against our offense, but our hitters stepped up in very clutch situations and came through. Monica did a phenomenal job in the circle, coming up with some crucial strikeouts and executing a great game plan with Aubree behind the plate. Our defense was also locked in, making some high-level plays out in the field to give our offense some time to settle in. Overall, it was a great day on the softball field.”
Team USA looked to strike early in the top of the first as leadoff hitter Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) singled up the middle before advancing 60 feet on a sac bunt from Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.). Chidester then beat out a slow-roller to second base followed by a hit-by-pitch to Ali Aguilar (Orangevale, Calif.), but Canada escaped unscathed after a strikeout stranded the U.S. runners. Abbott came out firing in the bottom of the frame for a quick 1-2-3 inning with a line out and two strikeouts to send the U.S back to the plate.
Delaney Spaulding (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) picked up her first Olympic hit with a leadoff double to left field and was quickly moved around to third base with a sac bunt from Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.). A walk to McCleney would put runners on the corners for the U.S. with two outs but a strikeout would retire the at-bat. A walk issued by Abbott in the bottom of the second would give Canada their first base runner of the game, but two strikeouts and a pop out would leave the runner at bay.
Both sides were retired through the third and fourth innings until the Red, White and Blue managed to push a run across in the top of the fifth. McCleney picked up her second hit of the day with a single over the head of the shortstop, then advanced to second on a sac bunt from Reed. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, Chidester delivered a hard ground ball through the ride side of the field to bring McCleney around to score and give the U.S. a 1-0 edge. An infield single from Valerie Arioto (Pleasanton, Calif.) followed by Aguilar’s second hit-by-pitch of the game would load the bases for the Eagles, but a strikeout retired the at-bat. Abbott remained dominant through the bottom half of the inning, issuing her seventh strikeout of the game and a pair of ground outs to retire the side.
The U.S. went down in order in the top of the sixth while Canada lit a fuse in the bottom of the inning with their first base hit of the game. A leadoff walk issued by Abbott followed by a pinch-hit double to the centerfield wall would look to score a run for Canada, but the defense of Team USA strung together a perfectly executed relay from McCleney and Aguilar to Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) who issued the tag at home plate. Abbott intentionally walked the next batter to put Canadian runners on first and third, then fired back with a strikeout to end the inning and maintain the 1-0 lead for the Red, White and Blue.
McCleney led off the top of the seventh with an infield single, her third hit of the game, but was left stranded as the next three batters went down in order. Abbott and the U.S. defense returned the favor in the bottom of the frame, retiring the final three Canada batters to secure the 1-0 shutout for Team USA.
Abbott went the distance in the circle, allowing only one hit while striking out nine and walking three. At the plate, McCleney went 3-for-3 with a walk while Chidester picked up a pair of hits and scored the lone run for the Eagles.
“Our team showed up today with great energy,” said Abbott. “Aubree and I were able to execute our game plan really well, which in turn gave our offense some time to get comfortable at the plate and eventually come up with some clutch hits. I was really proud of our defense today as well. They came up with some big plays and really showed up in some clutch moments for me, which was huge in this win.”
The Red, White and Blue improves to 2-0 in their quest to the Gold Medal and will return to action at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday, July 24 at 2:30 p.m. JT / 1:30 a.m. ET with their third pool play game against No. 5 Mexico. Fans from across the globe can follow along with the Olympic Softball competition through LIVE broadcasts on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and CNBC in addition to a live stream available on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. Live stats are also available on USASoftball.com.