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Friday, September 24, 2021

Canada beats Mexico 3-2 for bronze; first-ever Olympic softball medal

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YOKOHAMA, JAPAN — Canada has won its first-ever Olympic softball medal.

Kelsey Harshman drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning as the Canadians beat Mexico 3-2 for bronze at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

Emma Entzminger added two RBIs to secure a podium finish at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, some 13 years after the program’s agonizing fourth-place showing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Four veterans from that team arrived at these Games looking for redemption — Jenn Salling, Danielle Lawrie, Lauren Regula and Kaleigh Rafter.

And although left heartbroken when Canada’s gold-medal hopes were dashed with Sunday’s 1-0 extra-inning loss to Japan, they won’t go home empty-handed.

The United States and the Olympic hosts were set to meet in the final later Tuesday.

Canada took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on Entzminger’s two-out single to left that scored Salling and Erika Polidori after a fielding error earlier in the inning.

Mexico responded with two outs in the top of the third, when Brittany Cervantes singled to left to score Sydney Romero.

The Canadians looked to go up 3-1 in the bottom half, but Victoria Hayward was cut down at home.

Mexico made it even in the top of the fifth when Suzannah Brookshire singled to right with two outs to bring Romero in from third.

But Canada pushed back in front for good in the bottom of the inning on a sequence that started with a Janet Leung infield hit and Hayward’s bunt single. Larissa Franklin bunted to advance the runners to second and third with one out and set up Harshman’s sacrifice fly to left that scored Leung.

The top-ranked Americans, who finished a perfect 5-0 in the round-robin portion of this six-team tournament, won three straight gold medals beginning with softball’s introduction as an Olympic sport in 1996 through 2004 before settling for silver in 2008 when Japan topped the podium.

Softball and baseball were dropped from the Games docket in 2012 and 2016, and won’t be part of Paris 2024, but both are expected to be back four years later in Los Angeles.

Conditions at the 34,046-seat venue in Yokohama on the west side of Tokyo Bay — minus fans because of COVID-19 — were more manageable, feeling like 30 C with the humidity after a string of sweltering days to open the Games.

Canadian chef de mission Marnie McBean, on the 25th anniversary of her own rowing triple gold, made up the country’s cheering section, sitting directly behind home plate with two flags and a drum.

Making the country’s first-ever appearance in Olympic softball, Mexico secured a spot in the third-place game with consecutive wins to close out its round-robin schedule, including Monday night’s 4-1 victory over Australia — the country that beat out the Canadians for bronze in 2008.

Canada was unable to qualify its baseball team for the 2020 Olympic baseball tournament after finishing fourth in 2004 and sixth in 2008.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

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