Canada wins softball bronze, appeals to IOC to stay for '24

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) - Canada had just won its first bronze medal in softball, the high point in players' careers, and the reality has been sunk into the fact that there will be no chance of playing in the Olympics until at least 2028.
Dropped by the International Olympic Committee for 2012 and 2016 and restored for this year, Softball will be skipped again in 2024.
"I think a terrible injustice was done to women's softball when it was removed in 2008," said Canada's coach Mark Smith after Tuesday's 3-2 win over Mexico.
"If you look at the parity that was shown here this week, how close the games were across the board, including Italy which didn't win a game, you didn't know who was going to win until you really hit the last one (outcomes) . If you look at other sports, and I'll take women's hockey as an example, you know who's going to win before the tournament starts. "
Canada won after 2 1/3 goalless innings with a goal from Danielle Lawrie, sister of former Major Leaguers Brett Lawrie. The Canadians called on the IOC to reverse its decision to ban softball from the games in Paris.
"If you look at the equality of opportunity, there are certainly not as many women athletes in the Olympics as there are in men," says Smith, Canada's coach since 2009. "From my point of view, it was absurd that it was ever taken out. I think it's more than justified why it should be in there. I believe if COVID hadn't existed you would have had crowded stadiums to watch this game. And I don't know how it's possible that women's softball doesn't return to the Olympic platform and become a core sport because it has more than proven its worth. "
This was the seventh of 16 games in the tournament to be decided by a run. Two others had two-run margins.
"I think we've done a really great job building the sport around the world and making it more competitive," said Canadian Kelsey Harshman, who broke a 2-2 draw in game five with a victim flight.
Lawrie (1-1), a 2008 Canadian Olympic team veteran and University of Washington College Player of the Year 2009 and '10, eased with runners on the corners in fifth and retired Victoria Vidales with a groundout. Lawrie cut out four and fanned Brittany Cervantes to finish it off.
In a game that was played in intermittent light rain, Emma Entzminger put Canada in the lead with a two-time singles in the second from Danielle O'Toole (0-2), but Mexico shared the score in Cervantes' RBI singles in the third starter Sara Groenewegen and Suzy Brookshire in fifth against Jenna Caira.
"There are so many great women who have been here this week and so many other great women who have not been here this week and are doing this sport," said Caira.
"I hope we were able to give the world, and especially the IOC, a glimpse of this, and I hope they can take that into account, how many eyes are watching and how many female athletes love this sport."
# 9 hitter Janet Leung hit an infield single shortstop that led off the bottom half of the fifth, and Victoria Hayward put down a motley single. Larissa Franklin sacrificed and Harshman flew left, sending Leung home standing when the litter was cut off.
Canada went 4-2 and ended up behind the USA (5-0) and Japan (4-1). The Americans and defending champions Japan should meet for the gold medal later on Tuesday.
Jenn Salling was 8 for 14 with six walks and five RBIs for Canada, who threatened in the third when Hayward was tossed on the plate by O'Toole at Harshman's Comebacker.
"What you saw today was character and culture step up when needed and get the job done," said Smith. “We have a head start. We have given up this lead. We had the opportunity to give the go-ahead. She played a great game on the record, that would have been enough for many teams to wrap it up. "
After the last out, the players saluted the Canadian head of mission Marnie McBean, their one-woman cheering department in the almost empty stadium, which won three gold medals in rowing in the 1990s.
"That was the best game I've ever played," said Cervantes. "People now know who we are."
O'Toole's face was flushed with emotion as she looked at the final outs.
"I'm just thinking about alternative outcomes," she said. “I think I would like to throw another inning. I got out of this last inning and Entzminger clicked this pop-up and I think I don't want this to be my last here at the Olympics. "
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Games in Tokyo
Danielle Lawrie
Canadian softball player

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