Canada’s softball team comes up just short against U.S. in 2nd game at Tokyo Olympics

Canada’s softball team fell 1-0 to the top-ranked U.S. in their second game of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Wednesday in a tight contest at Fukushima Stadium.

Canada, ranked No. 3 in the world, was coming off a 4-0 win over Mexico in the opening game, while the U.S. defeated Italy 2-0 in its opener.

Starting pitcher Monica Abbott led the Americans with nine strikeouts while giving up just one hit.

Canada came close to tying the score in the sixth inning when Abbott walked Jen Gilbert to open the inning, but pinch-runner Joey Lye was thrown out at the plate after Sara Groenewegen doubled. Groenewegen wound up on third, but Abbott eventually ended the threat with a strikeout of Kelsey Harshman.

Despite the loss, Groenewegen’s inspirational story continued with another chapter. The starting pitcher took command early on, striking out four batters while surrendering only three hits as the game remained scoreless through the first two innings.

Groenewegen battled her way back to the sport after spending 10 days in a medically induced coma and nearly dying from legionnaires’ disease in 2018.

Jenna Caira replaced Groenewegen to start the third and put together consecutive clean innings, but the Americans got on the board in the fifth when Amanda Chidester lined a single to right field that allowed Haylie McCleney to score.

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Lauren Bay-Regula came in to pitch for Canada at the top of fifth and helped her team escape the inning with the bases loaded.

WATCH | Canada blanks Mexico in Tokyo Olympics opener:

Canada blanks Mexico 4-0 in their opening game at Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 1:37

Groenewegen came back in as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning and found a way to solve Abbott for Canada’s only hit. Groenewegen hit the ball to the back wall and made her way to third base, but Abbott then came through with another strikeout to keep her team unscathed.

McCleney singled to first in the seventh inning before a sacrifice bunt from Janie Reed allowed her to move to second. Canada’s Danielle Lawrie earned her first strikeout of the game to help keep the Americans from scoring, but the Canadian hitters were unable to get their bats going to earn the tying run.

All six teams in the tournament will play each other once in the round-robin stage before the two top teams square off for the gold medal on July 27 at 7 a.m. ET.

Canada next faces Australia on Friday at 9 p.m. ET, while the U.S. will go up against Mexico on Saturday at 1:30 a.m. ET. Both games will be broadcast live on the CBC TV network and streamed live on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website

WATCH | Groenewegen’s incredible journey to Tokyo:

Watch CBC Sports’ The Olympians feature, on Sara Groenewegen. 2:11