Pan Am experience tinged with silver

Amanda Asay's voice on the line was a little hoarse on Monday.

The Prince George pitcher had reason to be a tad tired.

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Less than 24 hours earlier in Ajax, Ont., she helped Team Canada's women's baseball squad claim the silver medal after an 11-3 loss in the final to the U.S. at the Pan Am Games.

Afterwards, the entire Canadian team celebrated at the closing ceremony in Toronto prior to players going their separate ways on Monday.

On Monday, Asay - who's been a fixture on the national women's baseball team since 2005 but had never been involved in a large-scale multisport event - reflected on the experience.

"It was pretty incredible," said the 27-year-old, who now lives in Vancouver. "The fans at the field were fantastic and we had tons of support on all platforms. We had a great fan base at the field, at every game. I think we were able to put on a good show for women's baseball. At a high profile event like this one, hopefully it got us out there.

"I think we had a good tournament, we would've liked to have gotten the gold. The silver will look better in a few days and will grow on me."

For the first time in the 64-year history of the Pan Am Games, women's baseball was included and featured a five-team tournament from July 20-26 with squads from Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela in addition to Canada and the U.S.

In Sunday's final, Asay started the game as the designated hitter but, with Canada quickly down 3-0, came in to pitch in the first inning and got the final two outs. She was on the mound until the fifth inning and then moved to first base for the sixth and seventh innings.

U.S. hitter Anna Kimbrell then hit a bases-clearing double off of Canadian reliever Jessica Berube in the fifth inning to open a close game en route to the 11-3 win. Kimbrell's double came with two outs in the frame and restored a five-run lead for the U.S. after Canada clawed back to score three in the fourth inning.

"Against the U.S. in the final, we always look forward to those games," said Asay. "They beat us in the World Cup last year and it's always a fantastic game (between us). They're very strong defensively and we weren't able to come out on top. In that 3-1 round-robin game (a loss against the U.S.), that was one of the best games I've been a part of. I think the rivalry (between the U.S. and Canada) will continue because it gets some extra mileage in multiple sports because of our geography."

After the championship final, the team made its way down the highway to Toronto's Rogers Centre for the closing ceremony. Because of the schedule, the team didn't have a chance to go to the opening ceremony.

"We were a little disappointed after the final but it was really exciting to be part of the closing ceremonies and seeing a lot of athletes," Asay said. "I saw Kenny Lally and said congratulations to him. We were in Ajax so we were spread out and didn't see many other sports."

Lally is a Prince George boxer who won a bronze medal for Canada fighting in the male 56-kilogram division.

Asay is a little more than a year into her doctorate studies in forestry ecology at UBC and was certain a stack of work awaited her when she returned to Vancouver. She earned her undergraduate degree at Brown University, which she attended on a hockey and softball scholarship.

While her goal is to complete her doctorate by 2017, baseball will still play a big part in her life, especially when Team Canada comes calling.

"The World Cup is every two years," she said. "We were fourth last year and it's in South Korea next year. So far the plan is to pursue it next year. That's what I'd like to do and then reassess. I love to wear the Maple Leaf and want to get a gold medal at the World Cup."

Asay said she hopes the strength of play by all the women's baseball teams means the event will remain in the Pan Am Games. The 2019 Games are in Lima, Peru.

Prior to the Pan Am Games, the Canadian women's baseball team was ranked fourth in the world, behind Japan, the U.S. and Australia. Japan and Australia were not eligible for the Games because they are outside of the Americas.

-- with files from Canadian Press

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