FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Canada's softball team has been handed its first loss at the Tokyo Olympics.

Starter Monica Abbott pitched a complete-game one-hitter, and the United States beat Canada 1-0 on Thursday in round-robin play.

Amanda Chidester drove in Haylie McCleney in the top of the fifth inning for the game's only run with a single to right field off Canadian reliever Jenna Caira.

Canadian starter Sara Groenewegen pitched two shutout innings, allowing three hits, striking out four and walking one batter, while also supplying Canada's only hit of the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.

Canada threatened in the bottom of the sixth but couldn't come through with the tying run.

Jen Gilbert was walked to lead off the inning before Groenewegen followed with a double to right field. Pinch-runner Joey Lye attempted to score from first on the play but was tossed out at home plate.

"Obviously I hit it well, but sometimes that's not good enough because they make a good play," Groenewegen said.

Abbott struck out nine Canadian batters while giving up just the lone hit and three walks — one intentional in the sixth — in a seven-inning gem.

Caira took over in the third and went 2 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, one earned run with two strikeouts for the loss.

Canada (1-1) opened its tournament with a 4-0 win over Mexico, while the U.S. (2-0) beat Italy 2-0.

The Canadians will face Australia next on Saturday.

Canada, which failed to win a softball medal in four previous tries between 1996 and 2008 before the sport was dropped for the last two Games, finished fourth its last time out after a crushing defeat to Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

The top-four teams in the round-robin tournament will have a shot at medals, with the No. 1 and 2 seeds playing for gold, while the third- and fourth-place nations will battle for bronze.

Fans have been barred from almost every event at these Olympics because of COVID-19, which caused the Games to be delayed by one year.

The first two days of softball are being played at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, located about 240 kilometres from the main Olympic venues in Tokyo, and some 65 kilometres from the site of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and caused a devastating meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

The rest of the softball schedule is set for Yokohama, just outside Tokyo.

Japan upset the U.S. in the 2008 gold-medal game before softball and baseball were dropped from the Olympic docket in 2012 and 2016, then brought back for Tokyo.

Both sports have already been nixed from the 2024 Paris Games, but are likely to be restored for 2028 in Los Angeles.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.