Softball star Emma Entzminger takes swing at Tokyo Games

Emma Entzminger grew up playing softball on diamonds around Greater Victoria. She could be performing on one in Tokyo next year.

With that goal in mind, Entzminger swings into the biggest summer of her career with the Canadian women’s national team.

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It began Tuesday night in the Canada Cup, which is running this week at Softball City in Surrey. It will continue through the 2019 Pan Am Games tournament Aug. 4-10 in Lima, Peru, and the Americas regional qualifier Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 at Softball City for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

One of those is clearly more important than the others.

“Everything is geared to the Olympic qualifier,” said Entzminger, who came out of the baseball/softball academy at Lambrick Park Secondary.

The national team has been together as a group since May. Playing in the Illinois-based National Pro Fastpitch League as Canadian Wild, the team went 16-13.

“That is top-calibre U.S. competition and it really challenged us,” Entzminger said.

It has meant total focus on one quest.

“I knew I had to do this full time and made that commitment,” said Entzminger, who played four seasons in NCAA Div. 1 for the San Jose State Spartans. She graduated in 2018 with a degree in kinesiology.

“I am not pursuing any other jobs. That can wait. I am 100 per cent committed to this and we’ll see what happens.”

Should Canada qualify for Tokyo 2020, it would mean another year of full commitment. But that is something any athlete would do to become an Olympian.

There’s a good chance of that happening. Canada is ranked No. 3 in the world. The No. 2-ranked Japanese national squad is in as the host country for Tokyo 2020.

The top-ranked U.S. qualified directly for the 2020 Summer Games by winning the 2018 world championship, so it won’t compete in the Americas regional Olympic qualifier in Surrey.

“Our national team has such cohesion on the diamond and we are so open with each other off the field. It allows us to perform under pressure. We are ready for anything,” Entzminger said.

As a utility player, the useful five-foot-six dynamo can be inserted into any situation on the field. “I will do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Entzminger said.

Canada’s head coach is Nova Scotia native and former Victoria Senior ‘A’ men’s pitching great Mark Smith.

“Mark is passionate and holds us to a high standard,” Entzminger said.

“Everybody looks up to him because he has been through it at the highest level.”

Host Canada opened the Canada Cup on Tuesday in Surrey against Britain. Its schedule continues today against Alberta’s Calahoo Erins and New Zealand Major Sox, on Thursday against Chinese Taipei, and Friday against Triple Crown Colorado. The playoffs and medal rounds will be held on the weekend.

“It’s an incredible opportunity, and one that I am grateful for, to wear the Maple Leaf in front of friends and family,” Entzminger said.

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