Victoria’s Entzminger hits key two-run single as Canada beats Mexico 3-2 for softball bronze

Infielder Emma Entzminger of Victoria is known for her shutdown defence, not overpowering offence. Playing against type, the Islander recorded the key hit, a two-run single that looped into the outfield, to help lead Canada to the bronze medal in softball with a tension-laden 3-2 victory over Mexico late ­Monday night in the Tokyo Olympics.

It was the second hit of tournament for Entzminger, who finished with two hits, three RBIs, a stolen base and a run scored. The Lambrick Park Secondary graduate started every game at third base for Canada and made two crucial defensive plays to keep Mexico at bay in the bronze-medal game at ­Yokohama.

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“We [wanted] to continue to play ball the way we play — Canadian softball,” said Entzminger.

The Victoria Devils youth softball product did just that with her teammates to win the first Olympic medal by Canada in softball.

Entzminger’s two-RBI single in the second inning gave Canada a 2-0 lead. But Mexico tied the game with runs in the third and fifth innings. Kelsey Harshman’s sacrifice fly scored Janet Leung from third base in the bottom of the fifth inning for the winning run. Veteran Danielle Lawrie of Langley, Canada’s third pitcher of the game, shut the door on Mexico the rest of the way.

“What you saw out there today was character and culture,” said Canadian head coach Mark Smith, the former Victoria Senior A pitching star.

“We stepped up when we had to get the job done. I like to think this success is going to be a building block for softball in our country. There are many girls playing the game and who aspire to wear this uniform.”

It was only the fourth medal won by Canada in a team sport in the Summer Olympics in 85 years, joining the Canadian men’s basketball team with silver-medallist Victoria players Doug Peden and Art and Chuck Chapman at Berlin 1936 and the Canadian women’s soccer team with bronzes at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Canada beat Mexico 4-0 in the round-robin pool portion of the Olympic tournament in Tokyo but was wary that Mexico defeated Canada 2-1 in the Americas’ regional Olympic qualifying tournament in 2019 at Softball City in Surrey. Canada eventually qualified for Tokyo by beating Brazil the next day.

The wariness was warranted as Mexico gave Canada all they could handle in the bronze-medal game.

Canada concluded the Olympic round-robin portion with a 3-2 record following an 8-1 victory Sunday over Italy. Except for tight 1-0 losses to powerhouses Japan and the U.S., Canada would have been playing for the gold medal. Canada’s other game was a 7-1 win over Australia. Mexico was 2-3 in the round robin but played the U.S. and Japan tough.

Japan defeated the U.S. 2-0 in the gold-medal game.

Canada had never medalled the four previous times women’s softball has featured in the Olympics at Atlanta 1996, ­Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and placing fourth at Beijing 2008 after losing to Australia in the bronze-medal game. Pitcher Lawrie was a member of the ­Beijing team and Tokyo was sweet redemption 13 years later.

Women’s softball and men’s baseball returned to the Olympics this year because of the intense interest in diamond sports in Japan. They will not be included for Paris 2024, because the French have limited interest in them, but are likely to be back for Los Angeles 2028 because of the American’s strong cultural association with the diamond sports.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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