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Tokyo Olympics Softball: Five Takeaways From Day 3

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(Photo by KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

With the opening ceremony completed, the Olympic softball venue shifted from Fukushima to Yokohama, just 18 miles from Tokyo. But not much changed in terms of the action on the field. The United States continued to win with great pitching, and Canada bounced back from a one-run loss in its best game of the tournament.

Here are five things we learned from the third day of Olympic softball action.

Canada’s offense woke up in a big way. After being shut out on one hit by Team USA on Thursday, the Canadians jumped all over Australia right from the outset. After the Aussies took an early lead in the top of the first, Canada put up three in each of the first two innings. In both innings, the big hit was a two-run, ground rule double—by Jenn Salling in the first and Erika Polidori in the second. Emma Entzminger drove in Canada’s final run in the 7-1 victory in the fourth, with a single to bring home Kelsey Harshman.

Outside of Kaia Parnaby, Australia’s pitching staff is thin. We knew this was a possibility going back to the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch season, when Parnaby was by far the most reliable pitcher for the Aussie Peppers. That’s been the case in the Olympics as well. Parnaby struggled in the opening game against Japan, but four of the six runs she allowed were unearned. She was dominant the next day, pitching 6.2 shutout innings in a win over Italy. The Aussies did not use Parnaby on Saturday against Canada, and they struggled to contain the Canadian bats. Ellen Roberts started but was pulled just one out into a rough first inning, and Washington star Gabbie Plain wasn’t much better.

Canada, meanwhile, may have the deepest pitching staff in the Olympics. Canadian coach Mark Smith has four pitchers he can rely on. Sara Groenewegen has started each of Canada’s first three games and has allowed just one run in 7.1 innings. Jenna Caira got the win against Australia and has pitched 8.1 innings of one-run ball in three appearances. Veteran Lauren Regula has been solid in limited work, and Danielle Lawrie, the biggest name on the Canadian roster, has pitched three scoreless innings so far. Canada still has to play Japan, but at 2-1, it is still a good bet to get to at least the bronze medal game.

Third verse, same as the first two for Team USA. The Americans have scored just five runs in their first three games. They’ve still won all three—because they haven’t given up any, and they’ve allowed just one hit in each victory. Ali Aguilar gave Team USA all the offense it would need with a two-run single in the third inning, accounting for all the scoring in a 2-0 victory over Mexico. After Cat Osterman dominated the team’s first game against Italy and Monica Abbott did the same against Canada, it was Osterman’s turn to shine again on Saturday. She retired the final 15 batters she faced in six scoreless innings, then gave way to Abbott, who worked around a leadoff error in the seventh to earn her second save of the Olympics.

Even at 0-3, Mexico is still very much alive for a medal. The Mexicans got their toughest matchups out of the way early, losing competitive games to Canada, Japan and the U.S.—the three highest-ranked teams in the world. They now have two very winnable games against Italy and Australia, and two wins would likely put Mexico in the bronze medal game. With two solid pitchers in Dallas Escobedo and Danielle O’Toole, and a lineup anchored by Sydney Romero and Anissa Urtez, it’s certainly doable.

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Canada's Victoria Hayward Talks Olympics, Athletes Unlimited

Victoria Hayward chatted with SA about her time at the Tokyo Olympics and the upcoming AU softball season.

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