Talk about making a good first impression.
In her first-ever Olympic appearance, former White Rock Renegades pitcher Sara Groenewegen pitched four scoreless, hitless innings to help propel Canada to a 4-0 victory over Mexico on Day 1 of the Summer Olympics softball tournament in Fukushima, Japan.
The game, which started at 11 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday night and lasted until the wee hours of the morning here in B.C., was a dominant one for the Canadian team, especially Groenewegen, who retired the first three Mexican batters she faced in the first inning, and threw only 20 pitches through the opening two frames.
Groenewegen allowed only one batter to reach base, on a walk, but the runner was thrown out later in the inning while trying to steal second base.
She was pulled after four innings, striking out three batters along the way en route to being credited with the win. She was relieved by Jenna Caira in the fifth inning before Danielle Lawrie – another former White Rock Renegade – earned the two-inning save, allowing just one hit while striking out two.
The Canadian pitchers allowed just two hits combined.
“I think she just set the tone in a great way,” Caira told Olympic.ca after the game, when asked about Groenewegen’s impact. “Getting ahead, mixing the pitches, her changeup was money and stretching the zone. I think that’s Sara Groenewegen for you.
“She’s a really great person to come in there and set the tone for our team. She did exactly what she does, so it’s great.”
Offensively, the Canadians were also sharp, scoring twice in the first inning. Victoria Hayward and Maple Ridge’s Larissa Franklin both got on base with singles – Franklin’s came on a bunt – and they both scored after singles from catcher Kaleigh Rafter and Port Coquitlam’s Jenn Salling.
In the third, Salling made it 3-0 when she knocked a home run over the right-field fence, and the lead was further extended in the fourth inning when Hayward led off with a single, moved to second base on a wild pitch and then scored on a single from Delta’s Kelsy Harshman.
Canada, currently ranked No. 3 in the world softball rankings, is back on the field this evening, taking on the No. 1-ranked United States. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. (Pacific Time).
Semiahmoo Peninsula softball fans will have the opportunity to watch today’s game with others, as Softball City is set to host a viewing party. The event is set for the facility’s main diamond, with the game set to be played on a large screen.
“Our national team has played a starring role in the annual Canada Cup International Softball Championship at Softball City. This site is also where they earned an Olympic berth two years ago, before a large and enthusiast crowd,” said Canada Cup board chair Greg Timm in a news release.
“So, it’s only fitting that we should provide an opportunity for fans and volunteers to come together, show their colours by donning red and white, and cheer on our Canadian squad as they pursue Olympic gold.”