Groenewegen reps native Canada

Gophers pitcher Groenewegen is playing for the Canadian national team this summer.

Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, at St. Thomas University.

Stephen Offerman, Daily File Photo

Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, at St. Thomas University.

Joe Perovich

Growing up, Sara Groenewegen watched the Canadian senior women’s national softball team primarily from the dugout as the team’s batgirl.

Now, the Gophers pitcher serves a much more active role on the national team — she has competed on the team for two consecutive summers.

“It was a dream come true to be named to the team last year and again this year,” Groenewegen said. “Being a batgirl for the team a while ago made me realize how high the level of play that [the players] were competing at.”

Groenewegen and the Canadian national team captured the bronze medal after falling to the U.S. in the 2014 Fastpitch International Championship semifinals July 21.

Groenewegen, a rising sophomore, finished tournament play with a 5.83 ERA in six innings on the mound.

Canadian national team teammate Jenna Caira said Groenewegen has “always been a great leader in the circle.”

“I have seen her grow more this year compared to last year, as she is utilizing other pitches more consistently,” Caira said. “I feel that her successful year at school in Minnesota has brought her to an even greater level of play.”

As a true freshman at Minnesota, she was named first-team All-Big Ten and was the Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year.

Groenewegen is just the third player in conference history to earn both awards in the same season.

“She’s going to be a leader for us [in 2015],” Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said. “Sara has so many different ways in which she can beat a batter — her screwball, her curveball and her change-up. I think that’s one of the things that makes her successful. On any given day, when one pitch isn’t great, you know that another one will be.”

Groenewegen said she has enjoyed her tour with the Canadian team, which will soon allow her to dig deeper into her lineage — her Dutch ancestry.

Groenewegen and the Canadian national team will travel to Haarlem, Netherlands, to play in the 2014 ISF XIV Women’s World Championship in August.

“Groenewegen is a very Dutch name. … Over there they’ll be able to pronounce it right for first time ever,” Groenewegen said about her first time traveling outside of North America.

And for Groenewegen, the trip will be a family affair.

“[Groenewegen] told me she still has a lot of family [in the Netherlands], and I think they’re going to be able to come watch her play,” Allister said. “Wearing your country’s uniform, and on top of that, getting to play in front of family that doesn’t really ever get to see you — I’m sure it will be special.”