Canada golden at Pan Ams

Local athletes dominate on international stage in Toronto

Sara Groenewegen

Rick Kupchuk

Black Press

With local players pitching, Canada upset the United States in gold-medal games in both the men’s baseball and women’s softball tournaments at the Pan-American Games which concluded last weekend in Toronto.

Sara Groenewegen of Surrey earned a complete-game win for the softball team, striking out seven batters in a 4-2 victory. All runs were scored in the eighth inning, as the teams finished the regulation seven innings scoreless.

Groenewegen allowed one earned run in six hits and three walks. She won four games during the tournament, and in 19 innings pitched before the final game, she allowed just two earned runs on eight hits while stiriking out 31 batters.

North Delta native Jenn Yee was also on the women’s softball team, contributing seven hits and three runs scored while playing second base.

North Delta native Jeff Francis won a gold medal playing for Canada in men’s baseball.

The 34-year-old left-hander pitched in the gold-medal game, a 7-6 10-inning victory for Canada. Trailing 6-4 going into the bottom of the 10th inning, Canada scored three times, including two when a pickoff attempt at first base led to two throwing errors by the Americans and allowed the tying and winning runs to score.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Francis told Canadian Press. “It’s a crazy way to end a baseball game, a really good baseball game too.

“This was our goal and we did it. I think a lot of guys appreciate the kind of team we have. It isn’t always pretty but we got it done.”

Francis hadn’t pitched on the national team since the 2006 World Baseball Classic, when Canada won two of three games, including an 8-6 upset of the U.S.

Drafted ninth overall in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft by the Colorado Rockies, Francis made his first major-league appearance in August 2004.

His best season in the majors was in 2007, when he won 17 games as the Rockies advanced to the World Series. After becoming the first Canadian to win a post-season game, Francis pitched in Game One, becoming just the second Canadian to start in a World Series contest.

He currently pitches in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, working as a reliever for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He has appeared in eight games for the Blue Jays this season.

In his Major League career, Francis has also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals.

Nine other local athletes were on the podium in Toronto.

Christabel Nettey, 24, won the gold medal in the women’s long jump, leaping 6.9m. Bianca Stuart of Bahamas was the runner-up at 6.69m. In six attempts, Nettey jumped 6.8m or better four times.

A former member of the Arizona State University track and field team, Nettey won a bronze medal at last summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Jusleen Virk, 23, claimed a bronze medal in women’s karate. Competing in the 50 kg class, Virk won two of three matches to finish atop her pool and qualify for the semifinals, where she was edged by Gabriela Bruna of Chile.

Hilary Caldwell, 24, won a gold medal in the women’s 200m back stroke. The White Rock swimmer – who won bronze in the same event at the 2013 World Championships – also set a new Pan-Am Games record with her time of two minutes, 8.22 seconds.

“It’s fun to be able to light it up in front of a home crowd, that’s for sure,” she told Canadian Press.

Claire Eccles and Niki Boyd were members of the Canadian baseball team that won a silver medal, losing 11-3 to the United States in the gold-medal game. Both players are from Surrey.

Eccles was pitcher and Boyd played outfield for the Canadian team which lost just twice in six games in Toronto, both setbacks coming against the U.S.

Kaitlyn Williams of Surrey has a bronze medal after playing goal for Canada’s field hockey team. Williams earned a shutout in a 1-0 win over Chile in the bronze-medal game.

In six games played, Williams allowed nine goals while earning three shutouts. Canada won four of its six games at the tournament.

Sukhi Panesar won a silver medal in men’s field hockey. A midfielder, Panesar played in all six games. Canada won its first five games of the tournament, before losing 3-0 to Argentina in the gold-medal game.

A pair of freestyle wrestlers from Surrey were also on the podium.

Haislan Garcia won a bronze medal in the 65 kg. weight class, defeating Herman Guzman of Colombia 2-0 in the bronze-medal match.

Arjun Gill reached the final of the 97 kg category, settling for a silver medal after a 10-0 loss to Kyle Snyder of the U.S. in the gold-medal match. Gill topped Marcos Santos of Puerto Rico 6-1 in a semifinal bout.

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