Groenewegen helps pitch Canada to gold medal win

Emily Polglaze

Trying to snap a 32-year gold medal drought, the Canadian women were in a scoreless tie with the Americans in the Pan Am gold medal game going into the eighth inning.
 
It was the fifth consecutive Pan America Games that the Canadians and the Americans were playing for gold, and the Americans were still undefeated.
 
Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen had thrown the entire game for Canada, and she and her teammates decided they’d had enough. 
 
“I started to get a little nervous,” Groenewegen said. “I caught myself slipping, but I looked at the crowd and wanted to win for our team and for our country.”
 
Groenewegen, a British Columbia native, and team Canada came alive late in the game after going into international tie-breaking rules in the eighth inning.
 
The rules put a runner at second at the beginning of the inning, and the Canadian women were a force to be reckoned with thereafter. They put up four runs, but the 
Americans still had the bottom of the inning to tie the game. 
 
Groenewegen had other ideas. She finished off the Americans, ending the game after allowing one earned run and striking out six. The final score was 4-2, leaving the Americans in the silver medal spot.
 
“She’s fearless,” Minnesota softball head coach Jessica Allister said. “She wants the ball in big situations. She’s not afraid of the big stage.”
 
The gold medal Groenewegen helped clinch was Canada’s first in softball since 1983.
 
“It was a feeling of pride, when you watch your flag being [raised] and hearing your anthem played,” Groenewegen said. “We were very proud to represent our country, especially on home soil. It was the coolest thing ever.” 
 
Groenewegen joined her national team coming off of a successful sophomore season with the Gophers. She started 39 games on the mound for the Gophers and accumulated a 1.67 ERA with 379 strikeouts. 
 
Groenewegen was also named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association Second Team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year.
 
Her experience on the international stage during the summer proved to be helpful as well, this year being her second with Team Canada. 
 
“It’s so valuable,” Allister said. “The ability to go and compete against the best players in the world and find success. It’s huge for her confidence.” 
 
Though she had a lot to live up to, Groenewegen remained cool under pressure. 
 
“I’m a very relaxed player, so I didn’t get mentally unfocused,” Groenewegen said. “I knew to trust the process and in my defense. I really attribute our success to the team as a whole — it wasn’t just me.”
 
Groenewegen said that although she was at first a little disappointed she wouldn’t get to travel to a new place for the games, the at-home atmosphere ended up being a great one. 
 
“I’ve never been treated so well as an athlete,” Groenewegen said. “Everywhere you went, whether you were wearing a maple leaf or an American flag, you were treated so well, and that doesn’t happen for a softball player very often.”