/Canada defeats Mexico to win bronze in women’s softball | CBC Sports

Canada defeats Mexico to win bronze in women’s softball | CBC Sports

With swirling winds and rain falling at Yokohoma Stadium in Tokyo, the Canadian women’s softball team made history by winning the country’s first medal in the sport at the Olympics. 

Canada defeated Mexico 3-2 to capture bronze on Tuesday. The U.S. and Japan will play for the gold later Tuesday.

The team blasted out of their dugout in celebration after the win — for some of the team it was a moment 13 years in the making.

Canada opened the scoring when third baseman Emma Entzminger, from Victoria, B.C., delivered a clutch two-out single that cashed in two runs for Canada in the bottom of the second inning. 

But Mexico fought back and tied the game in the fifth inning with a two-out hit by Suzannah Brookshire.

That set the stage for some late-game Canadian heroics. In the fifth inning Janet Leung and Victoria Hayward both beat out throws to first to set up Canada to score. 

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With runners on first and second and nobody out, Larissa Franklin laid down a perfect bunt to advance the runners to second and third.

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Kelsey Harshman, 24, then delivered a sacrifice fly to left field. Leung sprinted to the plate for the winning run.

The players battled through the wet conditions and there were many times throughout the game pitchers from both sides asked the umpire for new softballs. 

Sara Groenewegen, who just three years earlier was given a three per cent chance to survive after contracting Legionnaires disease, started the game on the mound for Canada. Danielle Lawrie, who was with the team in 2008, closed out the game on the mound for the win.

It has been a long journey getting to the podium for this Canadian team.  

Softball returned to the Olympic program for the first time since Beijing 2008. Canada is one of four countries that has qualified for all five Olympic tournaments along with Japan, the U.S. and Australia.

Mexico was making its debut at the Olympics and also made history by finishing fourth, the best debut by a softball team in their first Games.

The Canadian team competing in these Games included four players who were on that last Olympic team which finished fourth at Beijing 2008 — Lawrie, Kaleigh Rafter, Lauren Regula and Jenn Salling.

Early in 2021, this current Canadian softball team decided they would leave their family and friends in Canada because of pandemic restrictions to train in the United States. For part of the time they set up camp in Florida. Then they spent time training in Illinois, getting in important exhibition games. 

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For head coach Mark Smith, the moment couldn’t have been sweeter. This was his final game as coach for Canada. He told CBC Sports prior to the Olympics he’d be retiring at the end of the Games. 

Smith has been part of softball in Canada for decades. He won a world championship gold as a player for Canada in 1992. He captured two world championship bronze medals coaching the women’s national team in 2010 and 2016. 

Coming into the Olympics Smith told CBC Sports he felt no other team in the world had worked as hard as Canada to prepare for the Games.

They lost to the U.S. and Japan by one run in both games and while they might think about what might have been, the team was still able to grab the country’s first medal ever in the sport at the Games.