Olympics-Softball-U.S. beats Canada as Abbott strikes out nine

FUKUSHIMA, Japan, July 22 (Reuters) - The United States scored a 1-0 victory over Canada as U.S. pitcher Monica Abbott dominated the Canadian batters from the start on the second day of softball at the Tokyo Games.

For seven innings, Canadian batters chased pitches off the plate and failed to make contact with one of the game’s fastest throwers and a five-time Japanese league most valuable player.

Abbott returned to the same spot on the bench with toothful grin after her first six dazzling frames. She toweled sweat off her arms, placed a cold pack on the back of her neck and sipped fluids from her pink water bottle. The routine paid off.

The 1.91-metre (6-foot, 3 inches) Abbott struck out nine in all, walked three and gave up one hit.

Center fielder Haylie McCleney scored the lone run after singling off Jenna Caira. A fired-up Amanda Chidester, who drove in McCleney, exhorted to teammates to keep the momentum going, but the U.S. ended up leaving the bases loaded for the second time in the game.

McCleney also threw out pinch runner Joey Lye to prevent her from scoring on a Sara Groenewegen double to right center.

Groenewegen, who returned after a four-inning, no-hit start on Wednesday, held the United States scoreless in the first two innings.

The second of five days of round-robin play leaves the U.S. at 2-0 in the standings and Canada 1-1. The top four out of six teams advance to medal games. Mexico face Japan, and Italy take on Australia later Thursday.

The action breaks on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Games. (Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing Simon Cameron-Moore)