An extraordinary performance by the world’s best pitcher consigned the Aussie Spirit to defeat against the USA at the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan, today.
The 3-1 loss means Australia will have to beat Mexico tomorrow to keep their gold medal hopes alive. Mexico advanced by beating Italy 1-0 in extra innings.
Monica Abbott, who made headlines last year when she signed a long-term professional contract worth up to $US1 million, showed why she is such hot property with a dazzling performance against the Aussie Spirit.
The 191cm left-hander struck out an astonishing 18 Spirit hitters to carry her team to a 3-1 victory.
The only bright spot for Australia was a solo home run by captain Stacey Porter in the fourth inning, which briefly tied the scores.
NEXT GAME: Australia vs Mexico, 10.30 am Saturday AEST
Game Eight: USA 3, Australia 1
The combination of Monica Abbott’s pitching and some uncharacteristically sloppy defence meant the Aussie Spirit were always facing an uphill battle.
The USA took the lead in the first inning on an unearned run with an RBI single by Delaney Spaulding.
For the first three innings, it looked like no Australian hitter would be able to put the ball in play. At this stage Abbott had faced nine batters and had struck out all nine of them.
But leading off the fourth, Stacey Porter launched a home run to right field that changed the complexion of the game, at least temporarily, and stunned the USA team and fans.
When Leigh Godfrey followed with a single, it looked as if the Spirit batters had made some adjustments. But Abbott kept on rolling, striking out the side in the next two innings to give her the improbable stats of 15 strikeouts in five innings.
It was not until third time in the order that the USA defence was called upon to make an out as Porter’s pop-up was caught on the infield.
The USA took the lead in the fifth inning after a double by Janette Takeda-Reed was followed by a pop-up by Haylie McCleney that fell safely. A walk loaded the bases, then an attempted force-out at home came unstuck when Porter’s throw from third base eluded catcher Carmelle Sorensen, allowing two runs to score.
Almost as impressive as Abbott was Aussie Spirit starting pitcher Kaia Parnaby, who kept her team in the game in five innings of work. Parnaby allowed no earned runs on four hits and two walks, with four strikeouts, before handing the ball to Justine Smethurst after 92 pitches.
Smethurst pitched a scoreless sixth inning, but Abbott continued her dominance in the seventh, ending any chance of an Australian comeback.
The game ended, appropriately, with the ball in Abbott’s glove as she caught a pop-up off the bat of Samantha Poole.