A pair of former White Rock Renegades pitchers and a Cloverdale-raised slugger led Canada’s national women’s softball team to a silver medal at Pan American Games in Lima, Peru on Saturday afternoon.
Canada was awarded silver after losing the gold-medal match 3-1 to the United States, the reigning No. 1 team in world rankings.
The final game was a close one, as two former ‘Gades – Sara Groenewegen and Danielle Lawrie – along with Jenna Caira combined in the pitcher’s circle to hold the Americans to just a single run over the first five innings. With the game tied 1-1, the U.S. team – which has already punched its ticket to the Olympics after winning a world championship last summer – broke the deadlock in the sixth inning, first taking a 2-1 lead after three consecutive singles and later extending the lead to two runs after an unlucky bounce off Lawrie, combined with a throw in the dirt, led to the final run.
Groenewegen got the start in the game, striking out three over three innings of work.
Another Surrey native – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary grad Holly Speers – paced the Canadians offensively with a fourth-inning solo home run.
Both Groenewegen and Lawrie played major roles a day earlier, as well, leading Canad to a 3-2 win over the U.S. squad in semifinals. The victory sent the Canadian crew straight into the gold-medal game, while the Americans were bounced to the relegation side of the double-life bracket, and had to win an extra game, against Puerto Rico, in order to earn a spot in Saturday’s final.
In the semifinal tilt, Groenewegen again went three innings, striking out three while allowing just one run en route to the win. Lawrie pitched the final two frames, also striking out three, and earned the save.
With silver medals in their back pockets, Team Canada will now return home and begin preparations for this month’s 2019 Americas Olympic Softball Qualifier, a 12-team tournament set for South Surrey’s Softball City beginning Aug. 25.
The top two teams from the qualifier will earn spots at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Shortly after the conclusion of Saturday’s Pan Am gold-medal game, Lawrie – who came out of retirement last year to help Canada earn a spot at the Olympics – took to social media to express confidence that her squad would be able to ride their Pan-Am momentum into the South Surrey tournament.
“Oh so proud of this @softball.canada group!” she wrote on Instagram, in a post that was accompanied by a photo of the team showing off its medals. “We grind, we work, we love, we cry, we sacrifice, we do a whole hell of a lot! Lots more work to go, but dam (sic) this is a great start.”