By Sports Reporter Sunil Sunder Raj for The Every Day Fan Sports
Fresh off a 2-0 victory over Italy in the opening round of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Fukushima Azuma Stadium, the USA Softball Women’s National Team did not even have 24 hours to rest until squaring off against third seed Canada. An early start time with 8 p.m. EST and 9 a.m. in Japan.
Dialing up the heat in striking out the side in the 7th inning that sealed the win over Italy, Monica Abbott got the starting nod. Picking up where she left off, Abbott whiffed six hitters through the first four innings of action.
Team USA had quality scoring opportunities in the first two innings of play against Canada starting pitcher Sara Groenewegen.
In the first inning, loading up the bases with two outs, but Groenewegen struck out Michelle Moultrie. Delaney Spaulding led off the second inning, hammering a double to left field and then moved over to third base on a sac bunt from Kelsey Stewart. Groenewegen reared back and fanned Aubree Muno. With runners on the corner and two outs, Groenewegen brought the heat again, whiffing Janie Reed.
Cruising along, Abbott retired seven in a row at one point.
In the top of the fifth, Haylie McCleney drilled a one-out single to left field. McCleney advanced to second base on sac but from Janie Reed. Amanda Chidester stepped up to the plate and laced a single through the hole into right field as McCleney scampered home for the first run of the game.
Looking to tack on additional runs, Team USA loaded up the bases with two outs for the second time in the contest. Unable to cash in as Canada pitcher Lauren Regula struck out pinch hitter Bubba Nickles.
Locked in the zone, Abbott extended the number of retired in a row to 10.
The streak ended in the sixth inning, with Abbott issuing a walk to Jennifer Gilbert. Joey Lye came into pinch run for Gilbert at first base. That set the stage for the pivotal moment of the game.
Departing the game after throwing two innings on the mound, Sara Groenewegen made her appearance at the plate. Groenewegen flexed her muscles, ripping a single into the right-center field gap.
Team USA centerfielder Haylie McCleney quickly gathered the ball and threw the ball back to second baseman Ali Aguilar. With Joey Lye flying around the bases and headed towards home, Aguilar threw a strike to home plate as catcher Aubree Munro applied the tag on Lye, who attempted a headfirst slide.
Still facing a dicey predicament with runners on the corner and two outs, Abbott finished off the inning in impressive style by fanning Kelsey Harshman.
Attempting to go the distance, Abbott displayed absolutely no fatigue in the seventh inning. Starting off the frame with her ninth strikeout of the game, Abbott polished off the last two hitters for the complete-game shutout gem.
After two days off, the USA Softball Women’s National Team returns to action on Saturday, July 24th, against fifth seed Mexico with the first pitch set for 1:30 a.m. EST and 2:30 p.m. Japan Time.