Substitute flap, clutch hit send Canadians walking

Posted at 1:51 PM, Jul 25, 2021

The Canadian softball team’s gold medals hope were dashed in dramatic fashion in their showdown with host Japan on Sunday—first with a walk out, then with a walk off. Japan defeated the Canadians 1-0 in eight innings. But it’s what happened earlier in the game that heightened the game’s drama.

Here’s how it went down:

With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Canada’s coach Mark Smith pulled starting pitcher Jenna Caira for veteran Danielle Lawrie.  It was an unexpected move, given Caira had shutdown the powerful Japanese roster, holding them scoreless through 5.1 innings.

After Caira had left the field, and while Lawrie was warming up, Smith could be seen having an animated discussion with game officials and umpires.  The argument appeared to be about substitution protocols, which allow some players to leave and then re-enter a game. The debate lingered so long under the blazing Yokahama heat that one umpire was given an icepack to help cool off.

After several minutes, an unsatisfied Smith pulled his team off the field in protest. After a lengthy delay and more discussion, however, Canada re-took the field with Lawrie on the mound. She induced two groundouts to end the fifth inning and keep the game scoreless.   

That was the walk out.

Then came the walk off.

In the bottom of the eighth in, with the game still knotted at knotted 0-0, Japan’s Eri Yamada slapped a single to center field to score the winning run. Lawrie, who came out of a seven-year retirement for the Games, had delivered three shutout innings until Yamada's hit.

Japan will face the United States for gold; Canada will play the winner of the Australia-Mexico game for bronze.

"We've all invested heavily in preparation for this event," Smith told the CBC. "We came here believing we could go home a gold medalist. All of our focus over the last two years has been on that. They've sacrificed in their lives incredibly to put themselves in this position.

"It's a tough pill, but at the same time, we're too good a team not to go home with a medal."

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