TOKYO — Behind the powerful left arm of Monica Abbott, the highest ranked United States softball team snuck into third-ranked Canada 1-0 at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Thursday.
Abbott threw a complete game shutout in which he gave up only one hit, walked three and struckout nine. The day before, her compatriot Cat Osterman threw six scoreless innings and struckout nine, while giving up only one basehit to Italy. Abbott came in for the last inning to secure the 2-0 win.
So in two games, Osterman, 38, and Abbott, 35 — who both played in the last Olympic softball tournament, in 2008 — combined allowed only two hits, three walks and a whopping 21 strikeouts.
Abbott was quickly pumping balls at 70 miles per hour and annoyed the Canadian offense throughout Thursday’s game. And when she did cough up a hit in the sixth inning, her teammates came to the rescue.
With a runner on first base, Canada’s starting pitcher, Sara Groenewegen, doubled into the right centerfield hole. But midfielder Haylie McCleney chased the ball and fired it at second baseman Ali Aguilar, who passed the ball to catcher Aubree Munro in time to catch a sliding Joey Lye at home.
The defensive play kept Abbott’s gem and Ken Eriksen, the team’s head coach, stayed with her for the last inning.
On offense, the US threatened baserunners the entire game, but again struggled to capitalize on the opportunities. Their lone run came in the fifth inning, when McCleney reached on an one-out single and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Janie Reed.
Facing Jenna Caira, Amanda Chidester hit a ball to right field for a single that scored McCleney. Chidester was on first base, pumping her arms and yelling at her teammates.
There are no softball games scheduled for Friday as the tournament shifts to Yokohama Baseball Stadium, closer to Tokyo. The US will play Mexico next Saturday. After each team has played five games, the top two teams in the six-team field will advance to the gold medal game.