Monica Abbott pitched a complete-game, one-hit shutout as the United States softball team defeated world No. 3 Canada 1-0 Thursday in the second of five Olympic opening round games.
The 35-year-old Olympic silver medalist had her best stuff working when the U.S. needed it, as the offense failed to capitalize on multiple opportunities to create separation from their North American rivals.
“It felt really good out there,” Abbott told NBCSN analyst Jessica Mendoza after the game. “I knew [Canada was] going to come out swinging hard... [Catcher] Aubree [Munro] and I had a lot of good conversation about our pitching plan and how to give our offense the best chance no matter how long it took for them to score.”
The United States loaded the bases in the top of the first after a pair of singles and a hit by pitch, but Canada pitcher Sara Groenewegen drew an inning-ending strikeout from Michelle Moultrie to escape the jam.
Groenewegen stranded another pair of American baserunners in the second inning, then relief pitcher Jenna Caira retired the next six batters to keep Canada on level terms.
The United States finally scratched out a run in the top of the fifth when Amanda Chidester drove in Haylie McCleney with a two-out RBI single. Team USA would load the bases later in the inning, but again come up empty as pinch hitter Bubba Nickles struck out to end the frame.
Abbott, who owns an Olympic perfect game from Beijing 2008, took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning but surrendered a walk to leadoff batter Jen Gilbert. Then, after beginning the game as Canada’s starting pitcher, Groenewegen entered the batter’s box to pinch hit.
Groenewegen smoked a line drive into the right field gap and off the outfield fence for Canada’s first hit as pinch runner Joey Lye rounded third. However, a perfect U.S. relay throw from Ali Aguilar at second base beat Lye to the plate as catcher Aubree Munro applied the tag. Abbott struck out Kelsey Harshman three batters later after Canada loaded the bases to keep the game scoreless.
Abbott stayed in to close the game in the seventh and seal the shutout. She finished with nine strikeouts and allowed just the one hit.
For the second consecutive day, one of Team USA’s two Olympic veteran pitchers lifted a struggling offensive lineup after Cat Osterman went six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory over Italy Wednesday. The U.S has now managed just three runs across two games, but crucially sits atop the six-team standings with a 2-0 record.
The top two teams after the opening round advance directly to the gold medal game, with teams No. 3 and No. 4 contesting the bronze medal game.
The Olympic softball tournament takes its only rest day Friday for the Opening Ceremony. The United States next plays Mexico Saturday at 1:30 a.m. ET in the third opening-round contest.