Groenewegen has successful summer with Team Canada

The Gophers pitcher has stayed busy, playing in three events with Canada’s national softball team this summer

Carissa Polo

Pitcher Sara Groenewegen had little time to take off from competing in softball with her national team for the summer.

The Gophers ace has recently competed in Japan, Oklahoma and British Columbia with Team Canada.

“Playing at the international level, you’re going to get more experience,” Groenewegen said. “But a lot of people don’t get that international experience while in college.”

Groenewegen started her journey with the Canadian team in June when the team played exhibition games against Team Japan.

The White Rock, British Columbia, native said that both the athletic and cultural experience was different from what she was used to.

“Canada’s culture is very similar to American culture, but there’s a big difference between Western and Japanese culture,” Groenewegen said. “It was a really cool experience because not a lot of people have the opportunity to go to Japan.”

Groenewegen said that one of the best parts about playing in Japan was the positive softball culture the country has.

The team played its games against Japan inside the Tokyo Dome. As the first softball games played inside the dome, the match-ups were heavily attended.

Team Canada had some downtime to watch Team USA take on the home team, which is now the most-watched softball game in history with more than 31,000 fans in attendance.

Groenewegen and Team Canada could get the chance to return to Japan in the near future. Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games and hopes to get softball back on the list of events. The decision will be discussed and voted on at the 129th International Olympic Committee session August 1-4.

“Japan is one place in the world where softball is the biggest,” Groenewegen said. “So it was an awesome place to play before heading to the world championship.”

Groenewegen and her team headed to the U.S. following their Japan trip to play in the World Cup of Softball July 5-10 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Canada finished fifth in the tournament after Groenewegen shut out Puerto Rico 5-0 in the team’s final game.

Groenewegen finished out her summer slate in her native Canada during the Women’s World Softball Championship in Surrey, British Columbia July 15-24.

Groenewegen pitched seven games with a 1.25 ERA and 39 strikeouts to help advance Canada to the medal round.

The team fell to Japan 11-1 but still earned bronze at the tournament.

“To medal was one of our goals, but obviously we’re not satisfied with just bronze. We wanted that gold medal game,” Groenewegen said. “We obviously need to work a little bit harder and get better at a couple of things before we get to that gold medal game. But we’re happy with our play.”

Groenewegen will enter her senior season with the Gophers this year and hopes that what she’s gained with Team Canada will help her have another decorated year at Minnesota.

“I think the biggest thing [I learned] was about pitching against some of the best hitters in the world,” Groenewegen said. “Hopefully I can translate that into the college scene.”