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‘We did it’: Canadian softball team wins bronze at Tokyo Olympics

B.C. players lead Canada to country’s first-ever Olympic softball medal
Canada’s women’s softball team players Kaleigh Rafter (left to right), Jenn Salling, Danielle Lawrie, Kelsey Harshman and Emma Entzminger celebrate their win over Mexico in the bronze medal game at the Tokyo Olympics in Yokohama, Japan. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

The last pitch that Danielle Lawrie is likely to ever throw for Team Canada was a swinging strike that won an Olympic bronze medal for her country.

Late Monday night in Yokohama, Japan – host site of women’s softball at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics – Canada defeated Mexico 3-2 in the bronze-medal game. And Lawrie, a former White Rock Renegades star who, like the majority of her veteran teammates, is expected to retire at the conclusion of the Games, got the final two outs of the game via strikeout to clinch her country’s first-ever Olympic medal in softball.

Not a bad way to go out.

Lawrie pitched the final two-and-a-third innings for Canada, striking out four. She came into the game in relief of Jenna Caira – who, in turn, came into the game after two innings, relieving Semiahmoo Peninsula resident Sara Groenewegen, who struck out three herself while allowing one run.

Groenewegen, 26, made four starts for Canada over the course of the Olympics, and also managed a few key hits at the plate throughout the six-team tournament.

After the victory, Lawrie – who like her teammates had been taking a social-media hiatus since the Games began – went on Instagram to discuss the experience, calling it “by far the highlight of my softball career.”

“Being able to make history for our country with these women, to be a part of that was humbling,” said the mother of two who was one of only a handful of Canadian players who were on the team the last time softball was an Olympic sport, in 2008.

“I just can’t wait to head home and put that medal around my two little girls and let them see it, and let them know that the hard work was worth it, the time away was worth it.

“We did it.”

Canada’s gold-medal hopes were dashed late last week, after back-to-back heartbreaking losses to the United States and Japan – both by 1-0 scores, with the latter game taking extra innings to decide – but they rebounded to secure a spot in the bronze game.

Japan defeated the United States in the gold-medal game, successfully defending their Olympic title from 2008. Despite making its return after 13 years off the Olympic docket, softball is set to be cut again from the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, though it may return for the ’28 Games, which will be held in Los Angeles.

Against Mexico, Canada took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Victoria’s Emma Entzminger’s two-out single scored Jenn Salling and Erika Polidori.

Mexico cut the lead to 2-1 in the third inning, but Canada nearly extended the lead in the bottom half of the frame but Victoria Hayward was cut down at the plate while trying to score.

In the fifth, with Caira in the pitcher’s circle, Mexico tied the game after a two-out single scored a runner from third, but Canada pushed back in the bottom of the inning, when Janet Leung – who started the inning with an infield single – scored on a sacrifice fly from Delta’s Kelsey Harshman.

Lawrie took over from there, retiring the side with relative ease in the sixth – striking out two while allowing one single – and in the seventh, struck out two more to end the game.

“What you saw today was character and culture step up when it had to and get the job done,” said Canadian coach Mark Smith. “We got a lead. We gave up that lead. We had an opportunity to score a go-ahead run. They made a great play at the plate. That would have been enough for a lot of teams to pack it in.”

– with files from The Associated Press

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