Story by Devin Heroux, CBC reporter, CBC Sports. Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.
Canada defeated Mexico 3-2 to capture bronze on Tuesday.
WATCH | Canada down Mexico to collect historic women’s softball bronze:
Canada collects historic women’s softball bronze with victory over Mexico
7 hours ago1:06The Canadian women’s softball team made history by winning the country’s first medal in the sport by defeating Mexico 3-2 to capture bronze. 1:06
“It’s great to be part of these moments,” said second baseman Kelsey Harshman, who drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.
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“But these moments aren’t possible without those who are playing next to each other, so we just wanted to take a moment to really just think about all the stuff that we’ve overcome to get to this moment and to be able to relive that moment over and over.”
WATCH | Canada wins bronze in softball:
Canada celebrates first Olympic medal in softball
11 hours ago1:23Canada records the final out of the seventh inning to claim Olympic softball bronze with a 3-2 victory over Mexico. 1:23
Canada opened the scoring when third baseman Emma Entzminger, from Victoria delivered a clutch two-out single that cashed in two runs for Canada in the bottom of the second inning.
But Mexico fought back and tied the game in the fifth with a two-out hit by Suzannah Brookshire.
That set the stage for some late-game Canadian heroics. In the fifth inning, Janet Leung and Victoria Hayward both beat out throws to first to set up Canada to score. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Larissa Franklin laid down a perfect bunt to advance the runners to second and third.
Harshman, 24, then delivered a sacrifice fly to left field and Leung sprinted to the plate for the winning run.
The players battled through the wet conditions and there were many times pitchers from both sides asked the umpire for new softballs.
Sara Groenewegen, who just three years earlier was given a three per cent chance to survive after contracting Legionnaires disease, started the game on the mound for Canada. Danielle Lawrie, who was with the team in 2008, closed it out for the win.
It has been a long journey getting to the podium for this Canadian team.
Softball returned to the Olympic program for the first time since Beijing 2008 as a special one-off because the sport is popular in Japan. It is not included in events for Paris in 2024. Canada is one of four countries that has qualified for all five Olympic tournaments along with Japan, the U.S. and Australia.
For head coach Mark Smith, the moment couldn’t have been sweeter after he told CBC Sports prior to the Olympics he’d be retiring at the end of the Games.
Smith has been part of softball in Canada for decades. He won a world championship gold as a player for Canada in 1992. He captured two world championship bronze medals coaching the women’s national team in 2010 and 2016.
Smith made an impassioned plea for softball to become a core Olympic sport on his way out, citing the parity of the tournament in particular.
“From my perspective, it was absurd that it was ever taken out. I think it’s more than made its case for why it should be in. And I believe that had COVID not existed, you would have had packed stadiums to watch this game played,” Smith said.