Fukushima, July 22: Six outs from her second Olympic no-hitter, Monica Abbott was clinging to a one-run lead when she walked Canada's Jen Gilbert leading off the sixth inning, and pinch-hitter Sara Groenewegen lined a 0-2 pitch to the right-center field gap.
Center fielder Haylie McCleney picked up the ball at the wall and fired to Ali Aguilar. The second baseman made a perfect one-hop throw to catcher Aubree Munro, who moved up the third-base line and swiped a tag on sliding pinch-runner Joey Lye for the out.
"It's fun to be on the mound to watch that," Abbott said after her one-hitter led the United States over Canada 1-0 on Thursday (July 22) in the first of three one-run softball games.
Trying to regain the gold medal it lost to Japan in the 2008 final, the US improved to 2-0. After a day off for the opening ceremony in Tokyo, the tournament shifts to Yokohama on Saturday (July 24).
Abbott, 6-foot-3 and slim, has a Randy Johnson-like reach that reduces her release point from the 43-foot rubber to about 37 feet from the plate.
Pitching a week before her 36th birthday, she struck out nine, walked three and needed 102 pitches in the Americans' second consecutive one-hitter.
Cat Osterman, at age 38 the Americans' senior player, struck out nine over six innings and Abbott struck out the side in the seventh to finish opening 2-0 win over Italy.
JAPAN 3, MEXICO 2
Mana Atsumi's squeeze bunt single with one out in the eighth inning scored automatic runner Eri Yamada, and host Japan improved to 2-0. Haruka Agatsuma's grounder to second off Danielle O'Toole advanced Yamada to third, and Atsumi bunted toward third on a 0-1 pitch.
Yamada was running on the pitch and slid home ahead of Amanda Sanchez's throw. Mexico, 0-2 at its first Olympics, tied the score 2-2 when Yamada dropped Anissa Urtez's fly to center in the seventh for what was ruled a single.
AUSTRALIA 1, ITALY 0
Jade Wall hit a run-scoring single in the second inning, Kaia Parnaby took a three-hitter into the seventh and Australia evened its record at 1-1 following an opening loss to Japan. Australia is fourth among the six teams, and Italy fell to 0-2.
Taylah Tsitsikronis doubled off Greta Cecchetti leading off the second, advanced on Tarni Stepto's groundout and scored on a two-out infield hit by Wall, who beat the throw to first after second baseman Andrea Filler's diving, backhand stop.
Italy's Giulia Longhi singled with two outs in the seventh, pinch-runner Fabrizia Marrone stole second and Laura Vigna worked out a nine-pitch walk. Ellen Roberts, who played college ball for Memphis, made her Olympic debut after Parnaby had thrown 85 pitches, and Marta Gasparotto took a called third strike.