Canada heads into softball bronze-medal game on high note after mercy-rule win
Women to face Mexico for spot on Olympic podium
The Canadian women's softball team will head into the bronze-medal game on a high note following its 8-1, six-inning mercy-rule victory over Italy on Monday.
Third-ranked Canada will face No. 5 Mexico for Olympic bronze on Tuesday at midnight ET after the Mexicans downed eighth-ranked Australia 4-1. The U.S., which beat Japan 2-1 earlier Monday, will meet the hosts in a rematch for gold.
Canada, already assured of playing for bronze, rested pitchers Sara Groenewegen and Jenna Caira, who had each appeared in every game prior to Monday. Outfielder Victoria Hayward was moved to designated player for the game.
The blowout victory at Yokohama Baseball Stadium assured the entire 15-player roster got an extra inning of rest, too. The sport's rules state if any team leads by seven at the conclusion of an inning, the game is over — that's what the Canadians managed after six against Italy.
Canada wraps this one up 8-1 against Italy. Next up for 🇨🇦 is the bronze medal game July 27 at 12 a.m. ET <a href="https://t.co/3jW8JEflLy">pic.twitter.com/3jW8JEflLy</a>—@CBCOlympics
The Canadians completed the five-game round robin at 3-2, with both losses coming by 1-0 scores against the Americans and Japan.
Pitching has thus far been the strength for Canada, having allowed just four runs total, and never more than one in a game.
Against Italy, Danielle Lawrie — the 34-year-old sister of former major leaguer Brett Lawrie — got the starting nod and allowed four hits and one unearned run over three innings, while striking out three. Lauren Regula fanned five in three hitless innings in relief. Her brother is retired all-star outfielder Jason Bay.
Lawrie credited her parents, Russ and Cheryl Lawrie.
"I think the one thing that my dad and mom, mostly my dad, instilled at a young age is just that competitive piece," Lawrie said. "And Brett and I were constantly battling all the time, whether it was doing the dishes or playing baseball.
"For a young kid, we trained a lot. And now that I'm a mom, I don't know if I would put my kids through that. But it's also what made the woman that I am today, is that constant grind. I mean, we would go on camping trips and we would be having to go and train at crack — 8 a.m., getting up and going to train. So it's just the little things that have been instilled in us."
WATCH | Sport Explainer: Softball
Right-fielder Jen Gilbert gave Canada the early lead with a solo home run in the second inning, her first hit of these Games.
Canada added another run in the third when a Larissa Franklin double, her first extra-base hit in Tokyo, scored Hayward from first base in the third.
Italy eventually unravelled in the fifth inning, with Canada scoring three unearned runs.
Franklin drove in her second run of the game with a sacrifice fly and first baseman Jenn Salling contributed a run-scoring single before crossing the plate from first on a throwing error charged to Italian pitcher Alexia Lacatena.
By the time Hayward knocked in a pair with a single in the seventh inning, the rout was on. She later scored on another Franklin sacrifice to set the stage for the mercy rule to come into effect.
Still, Italy was briefly able to find some joy despite going winless in the tournament. The Italians scored their first run of the tournament in the bottom of the third when a pair of Canadian fielding blunders put runners at the corners with one out.
After a strikeout, captain Erika Piancastelli slapped an RBI single to centre that was met with rowdy cheers and applause from the Italian bench.
Softball and baseball have been scratched for Paris in 2024, but there's a good chance both will return four years later in Los Angeles.
WATCH | Groenewegen's inspirational journey to Tokyo:
With files from The Associated Press