YOKOHAMA, Japan, July 25 (Reuters) - Canada pitcher Danielle Lawrie - among several players who came out of retirement to chase gold in softball's return to the Olympics - turned away from home plate on Sunday, leaned back and took one of the biggest breaths of her life.
In a frantic three seconds moments earlier against Japan, she had thrown apart her arms to signal confusion over what pitch to throw, heard her catcher yell "change up," twisted into an unusual wind-up and thrown a strike before the 20-second pitch clock could expire and send home a run that would eliminate Canada from gold contention.
Now back in control, Lawrie added two more strikes to force an extra inning.
"I was fired up," the 34-year-old told Reuters. "It's why I came out of retirement. Just bottling up that. It's never fun being in those moments but sometimes it's the best feeling in the world and you get out of them."
If only that were the end.
In the extra inning, Lawrie again faced Japan with bases loaded in a two balls, no strikes hole, forcing her to throw down the middle. Japan's Eri Yamada knew it and slapped a Lawrie curveball into centre field, stopping Canada short of Tuesday's gold medal game.
Team mate Jenna Caira told a heartbroken Lawrie how proud she was of her, as did Lawrie's husband and older daughter on a video call minutes later.
"Knowing the magnitude of a moment like that is what I want to teach them," Lawrie said of her children. "It's not fun and I don't like, but it's also a game of execution. It doesn't mean it doesn't hurt and that it won't for a long time, but I'm glad they got to see that."
The Olympics were not a bust, she said.
"Getting to be a better teammate, getting to learn and work harder than I ever have, getting to be a mom and do this. A lot of boxes checked off. It's not just the gold medal and that made it all worth it because that's just going to sit on a shelf anyways."
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