Santiago, Chile - The Canadian Women’s National Softball Team won the bronze medal with a 7-0 win in five innings over Mexico at the Pan American Games on Saturday. Sara Groenewegen (Surrey, B.C.) fired four scoreless innings with Morgan Rackel (Calgary, Alta.) closing out the last inning to preserve the shutout in the pitcher’s circle, while Kianna Jones (Surrey, B.C.), Kelsey Harshman (Delta, B.C.) and Callum Pilgrim (Abbotsford, B.C.) each homered to provide the offence.
Groenewegen set the tone early, making a fantastic diving play to catch a bunt on the game’s very first pitch and followed that up by striking out the next two batters. The following inning, Mexico got two runners in base on a hit by pitch and a walk and they advanced to second and third on a passed ball, but Groenewegen left them stranded with a key strikeout. Jones opened the scoring with a solo homerun to right in the bottom of the second.
“I felt good on the mound for the first time in a very long time” said Groenewegen after the game.
After sitting Mexico down in order in the top of the third, Canada added four runs to its lead in bottom of the frame. Pilgrim led off with a single and scored a two-run blast right-center by Harshman, followed by a double by Larissa Franklin (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and an infield single by Erika Polidori (Brantford, Ont.). Polidori stole second to put runners on second and third before Zoe Hicks (Boissevain, Man.) hit a two-run single to right as Canada jumped ahead 5-0.
Janet Leung (Missisauga, Ont.) led off the bottom of the fourth with a single and immediately scored on a two-run homerun to left by Pilgrim to complete the scoring. Rackel came on in relief of Groenewegen and allowed a single to the first batter she faced, but she settled in with a pair of ground outs before striking out the final batter to end the game.
“What a start for us from Sara G in the pitcher’s circle. A no-hitter going into the fourth, she set the tone for us” said head coach Kaleigh Rafter. “Kianna had the big swing in the third inning to get us on the board then Kelsey followed that up. The nerves kind of left after that and we piled on a few more runs. It was a great effort top to bottom.”
Box Score: Canada 7 vs. Mexico 0
With the bronze medal win, Canada has now won medalled in seven straight Pan American Games dating back to 1999, winning one gold, five silver and one bronze over that span. The last time they had won the bronze medal was in 1987.
Team Canada will now enter its offseason and shift its focus towards the 2024 WBSC Women’s World Cup Finals that will take place July 15-21 in Italy. The next edition of the Pan American Games will be in 2027 in Barranquilla, Colombia, a year before softball will make its return at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Summer Games.
“It’s all about building momentum, it’s a long cycle with four years before 2027 when we need to qualify” said coach Rafter after being asked about how this win prepares the team for LA 2028. “The more momentum we can build, the more of these games that we can be in - the close game against Puerto Rico, the game yesterday against USA, a medal game to feel what it’s like to play for a medal with the pressure on - all these moments are going to be really important as we build towards 2028.”
The United States won the gold medal after defeating Puerto Rico 7-0.