July 25, 2021, 3:57 a.m. (ET)
TOKYO, Japan –– The U.S. Olympic Softball Team improved to 4-0 at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after another outstanding performance in the circle from Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) and a clutch walk-off double from Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich.) earned Team USA the 2-1 (eight innings) victory over No. 8 Australia. Abbott went the distance in the circle, racking up 13 strikeouts while keeping Australia off the board through seven innings before they were able to push a run across in the eighth. The U.S. offense remained stifled through majority of the game, but a timely piece of hitting from the top of the lineup in the bottom of the eighth would be enough to seal the win for the Red, White, and Blue.
Today’s win against Australia in addition to Japan’s win over Canada finalized the top two countries set to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Softball Gold Medal Game, with Team USA advancing for their fifth-straight appearance and third Gold Medal matchup against the Japanese. The six competing countries will cap the Opening Round tomorrow before competing in the Medal Rounds on Tuesday, July 27.
“We feel good about where we’re at right now,” said U.S. Olympic Softball Team Head Coach, Ken Eriksen. “Monica and Cat have thrown extremely well these last four games on top of some great defensive plays behind them. Our offense has done great of coming through in crucial moments and I think we’ve shown that we’re capable of executing the timely hit time and time again. All in all, we feel good of where we’re at and are looking forward to getting back out to compete tomorrow.”
Abbott recorded two strikeouts and a fly out to shut down the Australia offense in the top of the first, bringing leadoff batter Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) to the plate. McCleney, who has reached base in her first at-bat of every Olympic game, ripped a line drive to the right field fence for a leadoff triple, but was tagged out at home after attempting to score on an infield ground ball.
Australia managed to get their first baserunner of the game in the top of the second with a leadoff single, but Abbott fired back with two strikeouts and a pop out to strand the runner. Despite a single from Bubba Nickles (Merced, Calif.) in the bottom of the frame, the U.S. offense remained silent for another scoreless inning. Abbott worked her way of a jam in the top of the third after Australia put a pair of runners on with a single and a walk, but a timely two-out strikeout would keep them at bay. The U.S. returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, putting a pair of runners on after a walk to McCleney and single from Janie Reed (Placentia, Calif.), but a double play by the Australia defense would end the inning.
Both sides were retired through the fourth and fifth innings until Australia looked to light a spark in the top of the sixth after putting back-to-back runners on with a leadoff single and a walk. The U.S. defense would respond with two quick outs, but another walk issued by Abbott would load the bases. Remaining calm under pressure, Abbott zoned in for the huge two-out strikeout to end the Australian threat.
Another scoreless inning from both squads would send the game into extras where the excitement quickly took off. With the International Tie-Breaker (ITB) runner on second to start the eighth, Australia quickly loaded the bases with one out after a pair of walks put two more runners on. A strikeout from Abbott would put the U.S. defense within one out of escaping the inning, but another walk would allow the go-ahead run to cross the plate for Australia. Limiting the damage to one run, though, Abbott quickly fired back with a strikeout to end the at-bat.
The U.S. started the bottom of the eighth with Ally Carda (Elk Grove, Calif.) on second as the ITB runner before McCleney beat out an infield single to put runners on first and second. A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt from Reed would advance the runners 60 feet before Chidester brought them home to score with a laser through the left side of the field, earning Team USA the 2-1 walk-off victory.
McCleney extended her hit-streak to four games with a 2-for-2 day at the plate, while Abbott now totals 28 strikeouts through her four outings.
Team USA will return to action tomorrow, July 25 at 10 a.m. JT / July 24 9 p.m. ET in their final pool play game against No. 2 Japan, which will be the first of two matchups between the two teams as today’s wins finalized the Gold Medal contestants for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Softball Competition. 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.