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U.S. beats Australia, clinches gold medal game softball spot

Amanda Chidester hit a game-ending, two-run single in the eighth inning and Monica Abbott struck out 13.
The United States' Amanda Chidester, pictured during a game against Italy earlier this week, hit a game-ending, two-run single in the eighth inning to lift the Americans over Australia.
The United States' Amanda Chidester, pictured during a game against Italy earlier this week, hit a game-ending, two-run single in the eighth inning to lift the Americans over Australia. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]
Published Jul. 25

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Amanda Chidester hit a game-ending, two-run single in the eighth inning, Monica Abbott struck out 13 and the United States beat Australia 2-1 on Sunday to clinch a berth in the Olympic softball gold medal game.

Australia scored the first run off the Americans in the tournament when Jade Wall walked on eight pitches with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth.

With pinch-runner Ally Carda on second as the automatic runner in the bottom half, leadoff hitter Haylie McCleney reached on an infield single to shortstop off Tarni Stepto (0-1). McCleney reached in all four plate appearances and in 13 of 15 over the Americans’ four games.

Janie Reed sacrificed for the fourth time in the tournament, and Chidester singled to the back of the baseball infield dirt at Yokohama Stadium as both runners scored.

Abbott (2-0) gave up three hits and walked six — two of them intentional — while throwing 126 pitches. She has given up four hits in 17 innings with 28 strikeouts, improving to 5-0 in her Olympic career.

The top-ranked U.S., coached by USF’s Ken Eriksen, plays defending champion Japan on Monday in a game that likely will only determine which team bats last in Tuesday’s gold medal game. The U.S. has scored just six runs in four games.

No. 2 Japan (3-0) could clinch a berth in that game when it plays Canada (2-1) later Sunday.

By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer