MAKUHARI, Japan (AP) — Monica Abbott had 18 strikeouts and the United States defeated Australia 3-1 on Friday in the playoffs of the women's world softball championship.
Abbott gave up a game-tying solo home run to Stacey Porter in the fourth inning but was solid the rest of the way, facing only seven hitters in the last two innings.
"Aubree Monroe called a great game behind the plate," Abbott said. "I wasn't really thinking about the strikeouts, I was just trying to get the batters out."
After Porter's homer to right, the defending champions regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth.
With the bases loaded, Delaney Spaulding hit a chopper to third but Porter's throw home went over catcher Carmelle Sorensen and allowed two runners to score.
"I was really proud of the way our team bounced back after that home run. It showed a lot of character," Abbott said.
The U.S. will next face Beijing gold medalist Japan in the tournament, which also doubles as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Japan beat Puerto Rico 7-0.
Under the tournament's Page system format, Japan and the U.S. could still meet in the final.
The winner of the tournament will be awarded an Olympic spot. If Japan wins, the second-place finisher will be granted the Olympic spot because Japan has an automatic berth as host.
Softball and baseball were dropped from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games but have been restored for 2020.
In other playoff games on Friday, Mexico edged Italy 1-0 in nine innings, and Canada beat the Netherlands 8-1.
Dallas Escobedo went the distance for Mexico, striking out 16 and allowing only four hits and a walk, and Suzy Gonzalez hit a bases-loaded single in the ninth to clinch the victory.
Larissa Franklin hit two home runs and had a total of 7 RBIs in Canada's victory.