For seven-and-a-half innings, things were looking bleak for the USA Softball Women’s National Team in their Olympics showdown with Australia. But then Amanda Chidester stepped in to save the day.
The US entered the day carrying a remarkable three-game shutout streak with victories over Italy, Canada, and Mexico.
So while starter Monica Abbott kept the streak going through regulation with seven scoreless innings, Australia’s Tarni Stepto matched her in throwing up goose eggs on the scoreboard.
Finally, in extra innings, U.S. pitching bent. Just as with Major League Baseball rules, Australia began the top of the eighth with a runner on second. After a sacrifice bunt, two walks, and a strikeout, Jade Wall drew a bases loaded walk to plate the first run against American moundswomen and Australia took a 1-0 lead into the do-or-die bottom of the inning.
Fortunately, the U.S. was also starting with the tying run on second. And Chidester was looming, looking to turn around an 0-for-3 day.
With Ally Carda acting as the ghost runner, Hayley McCleney began the eighth with an infield single to put runners on the corners. One out later, she advanced to scoring position and it was officially hero time.
On the first pitch of the at bat, Chidester laced a center-cut fastball on a line into left field past the futile dive of the shortstop. Carda scored the tying run easily and McCleney was off with the crack of the bat just behind her to plate the game winner. Chichester, McCleney and Carda are among the out LGBTQ Olympians in Tokyo.
Thanks to Chidester’s walk-off single, USA Softball beat Australia 2-1 in eight innings for their fourth win in a row. The entire roster mobbed her at second base to celebrate their first come from behind victory in Tokyo.
It was the second game winning hit in the past three games for Chidester. And in between, she and her USA teammates scored a victory over fiancée Anissa Urtez and Mexico. So far, the only person having a better Olympics than her is anyone betting money on guessing the attendance.