By Sports Reporter Sunil Sunder Raj for The Every Day Fan Sports
Off to a terrific start in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the USA Softball team had registered three consecutive shutout victories. Facing eighth seed Australia at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, Australia lost two out of three games and was outscored 15-3.
Right off the bat, Team USA had an excellent scoring chance in the first inning. Centerfielder Haylie McCleney led off with a triple that sailed over right-fielder Chelsea Forkin. With one out, Amanda Chidester hit a ground ball to shortstop Clare Warwick. Attempting to score on the play, McCleney was cut down at the plate on a solid throw from Forkin to catcher Belinda White.
In the third inning, Australia had runners at first and second with two outs against Team USA starting pitcher Monica Abbott. Coming off a stellar complete shutout gem against Canada, where she struck out nine hitters on 102 pitches, Abbott brought the heat by whiffing Taylah Tsitskronis.
Abbott overpowered the competition tallying a 4-0 record in her nine-game Olympic career, 0.21 ERA, 47 strikeouts, and two saves.
The second quality scoring opportunity for Team USA occurred at the bottom of the frame, with runners at first and second with one out. However, Australia starting pitcher Tarni Stepto managed to induce Amanda Chidester into an inning-ending double play.
Applying the pressure in the fifth inning, Team USA had runners at first and second with two outs, but Janie Reed ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice. Australia loaded up the bases with two outs in the sixth inning, Abbott clamped down by fanning pinch hitter Michelle Fox.
Producing another stellar outing, some of Abbott’s highlights were striking out the side in the fourth inning, retiring seven in a row at one point, and retiring the side in the order three times.
A heavyweight duel that required extra innings, Australia loaded up the bases for a second time in the game with two outs in the top eighth. With Abbott facing left-fielder Jade Wall, the count went to 3-2. Without much room for error, Abbott’s pitch was high and inside that forced in a run.
With the bases still juiced, Abbott faced Tarni Stepto. Displaying a ton of resiliency with a pitch count exceeding 110 pitches, Abbott struck out Stepto that increased her strikeout total to 13.
In the bottom half of the frame, pinch-runner Ally Carda was at second base. Haylie McCleney followed by reaching on an infield single. Janie Reed stepped up to the plate and promptly dropped down a perfect sac bunt as the runners advanced to second and third base. That set the stage for Amanda Chidester, on the first pitch from Tarni Stepto Chidester ripping a walk-off two-run single to left field that set off a wild and jubilant celebration.
The USA Softball Team faces another stiff test, squaring off against second seed Japan that comes into the game undefeated at 3-0 while outscoring their opponents 16-3 with the first pitch at Yokohama Baseball Stadium set for 9:00 p.m. EST and 10:00 a.m. Japan Time.