Women’s softball fans in this country have hope that Team Canada is gaining momentum heading into qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Coach Mark Smith’s national side beat American club team Scrap Yard International 8-4 on Sunday in the Canada Cup tournament final at Softball City.
Softball City will also host the 12-team Americas qualifying tournament for Tokyo 2020 from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1. The top two teams from that event grab Olympic spots.
The U.S., as reigning world champions, and Japan, as Olympic hosts, have already qualified.
Host countries are now permitted to add sports that are popular in their region. That’s why softball is back in the OIympics for the first time since Beijing 2008. It won’t be part of Paris 2024 but people in the sport believe it will be considered for Los Angeles 2028.
On Sunday, Canada scored twice in each of the first three innings to jump out to a 6-0 lead on Scrap Yard.
Smith’s team was 8-1 in the tournament, with their lone loss a 2-0 decision to Scrap Yard in the semifinals on Saturday. Canada needed a 2-1 eight-inning win over Chinese Taipei on Sunday morning to grab the second spot in the final.
National team veteran Joey Lye, 32, was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one driven in out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order in the championship game versus Scrap Yard. The Toronto product hit .474 (9-for-19) for the tournament.
Jennifer Gilbert, 27, of Saskatoon was 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI out of the No. 3 spot. She hit .571 (16-for-28) with 11 RBI in the nine Canada Cup games.
White Rock’s Sara Groenewegen went the distance in the pitcher’s circle for Canada, scattering nine hits over the seven innings. She struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. She gave up two-run home runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.
It was the 24-year-old’s third appearance of the tournament.
Scrap Yard hurler Dallas Escobedo allowed five earned runs on nine hits over four innings. The 27-year-old from Phoenix pitches for Mexico internationally and she was 5-1 with a 0.64 and a tournament-leading 61 strikeouts in 44 innings at last year’s worlds in Chiba, Japan.
Canada (8-3) finished that tournament third overall. Mexico (6-3) and Puerto Rico (6-3) were in the group just behind them. Those two teams will be Canada’s main competition at the Americas qualifying tournament.
Canada beat Puerto Rico 12-1 in a mercy-ruled five innings on Friday at the Canada Cup, led by a 3-for-3, four-RBI game from Gilbert.
Kylee Hanson tossed a three-hitter for Scrap Yard in their Saturday win over Canada.
Canada now returns to National Pro Fastpitch action, the American loop where they’re playing under the Canadian Wild banner and are based out of Marion, Ill.
They start a four-game road series against the USSSA Pride in Viera, Fla., on Thursday.
They then head to Lima, Peru for the Pan American Games from Aug. 4-10 before returning to Softball City for the Olympic qualifying.
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