United States defeats Canada 5-2 in women's softball at Pan Am Games

AJAX, Ont. — The United States defeated Canada 5-2 on Friday night to advance to the championship game in women's softball at the Pan Am Games.

Despite the loss, the Canadians are guaranteed a medal and still have a chance to play for gold. They'll play Puerto Rico in Saturday's final with the winner to play the Americans in the grand final Sunday.

The loser of Saturday's game will win the bronze.

The Americans jumped out to an early 3-0 lead to hush the near-capacity crowd on a pleasant evening at President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark. Kelsey Stewart started the rally with a one-out single and Valerie Arioto walked before Sierra Romero blasted a three-run homer.

The Canadians — who played as the road team in the semifinal — scratched out a run in the top of the second inning.

Jennifer Salling led off with a single and scored when Erika Polidori lashed a ball into the left-field corner. Polidori tested the arm of left-fielder Michelle Moultrie but was thrown out at third base.

American starter Sara Nevins used her impressive fastball to keep the Canadians in check for the next three innings. The U.S., meanwhile, put at least two runners on in each of the first four innings but Canadian starter Jenna Caira escaped further damage.

Jaclyn Traina relieved Nevins in the fifth inning and Canada loaded the bases with two outs. Kaleigh Rafter sliced a ball into right field that brought home Megan Timpf with Canada's second run.

Jenn Yee tried to score from second base but catcher Janelle Lindvall stood her up at home plate, applying the tag and hanging on to the ball after a heavy collision.

Caira left to a nice ovation after giving up a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth. Sara Groenewegen came on for the final out.

Salling opened the sixth inning with a walk but Traina got a flyout and double-play to keep the Americans' lead intact. Kellie Fox led off the bottom half of the frame with a solo shot and the U.S. tacked on two more insurance runs.

Puerto Rico walloped Brazil 12-2 in the early game to advance to weekend play. The Americans beat Canada for gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Canada beat Venezuela 2-1 in the men's softball final last week. It was the eighth straight Pan Am gold for the men's team.

Notes: Official attendance numbers weren't released but seating capacity was estimated at about 1,000. ... Men's softball returned to the Pan Am program this year for the first time since 2003.

The Canadian Press