Everything you need to know about softball
With sport’s exceptional return to the Olympics this year, which teams and names should have the most diamond attention?
After missing at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, softball will be one of five sports to debut or return in a special appearance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic softball games will be held at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima and Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama.
Six nations will participate in the event. In addition to the host nation, the United States qualified for the Olympics by winning the 2018 Women’s World Softball Championship. Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia then all secured tournament spots. regional qualification in 2019.
2021 Olympic Games: Softball Rivalries
While rivalries in Olympic softball don’t really have bad blood, the United States, Japan and Australia have been a part of Olympic softball history from its inaugural tournament in 1996 until its most recent. recent participation in the Olympic Games in 2008.
The United States team dominated this Olympic sport for the most part, winning gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004. In fact, only the United States, Japan, Australia and China have won any. Olympic softball medals.
Despite a poor loss to Australia in the 1996 Games, the United States won the first gold medal by beating China in the final. Australia won bronze that year.
The United States then put on a significant streak, recording a 22-game unbeaten streak between the 2000 and 2008 Games. They beat Japan in the 2000 gold medal game and Australia. in the gold medal match in 2004. Australia won bronze in 2000, while Japan won bronze in 2004.
The United States, however, suffered a major loss in 2008, as Japan beat them in that year’s competition final to win gold. Australia again won bronze.
2021 Olympic Games: Softball Athletes You Need to Know
Perhaps the most decorated athlete on this year’s U.S. Olympic team’s softball roster, Cat Osterman once tasted Olympic gold as a member of that gold medalist team in 2004, as well as of the 2008 team that won silver.
Osterman pitched for four seasons at the University of Texas, totaling 2,265 strikeouts (second-most all-time in NCAA Division I history), 136 wins (sixth in NCAA), 85 shutouts (third in NCAA), 20 no hitters (third in NCAA) and seven perfect games (second in NCAA). She was also a four-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.
Osterman then played nine seasons at National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), going 95-24 in his professional career with 1,260 strikeouts and a 0.91 ERA. She was on four championship teams and was named to six All-NPF teams.
Japan will also feature a returning ace in Yukiko Ueno, who was a member of the 2004 bronze medalist and 2008 gold medalist teams and a well-known opposing pitcher for Team USA.
During the 2004 Games, Ueno became the first to pitch a perfect game in an Olympic softball competition. In 2008, she threw more than 600 shots over a four-day span, including 28 innings against the United States and Australia en route to help her team win gold.
Australia will also feature a returning member of its 2004 and 2008 squads in Stacey Porter.
A first and third baseman with an excellent bat, Porter played three seasons at the University of Hawaii, breaking the school’s first-year home run record in 2001. In 2003, Porter broke all-time records. college and Western Athletic Conference for the most home runs in a season with 17, while beating over 0.479 in the process.
One of the key names for Team Canada is pitcher Danielle Lawrie, formerly a member of the 2008 Canadian Olympic team who finished fourth. Lawrie, the sister of former major league Brett Lawrie, pitched at the University of Washington for four seasons, including their College World Series victory in 2009.
Lawrie still holds numerous Washington pitching records, as well as the Pac-12 career strikeout record, and she was named Collegiate Player of the Year for her junior and senior seasons. Lawrie is fourth in NCAA Division I softball history in career strikeouts, fifth in perfect games and sixth in wins and innings pitched.
Lawrie pitched five seasons for the USSSA Pride of the NPF, being named All-Star in 2011 and helping the team at the championships in 2013 and 2014. Lawrie returned to the NPF in 2019 and continues to pitch for the Canadian Wild.
The Mexico team also has a formidable pitching staff, including Dallas Escobedo, the current pitching coach of Cal State Fullerton.
Escobedo pitched at Arizona State from 2011 to 2014, going to the Women’s College World Series in her first three seasons and winning the NCAA tournament in 2011, being named the Most Outstanding Player in the Women’s College World Series and the Pac 10 (now Pac-12) Freshman of the year. Escobedo was named to the conference’s first team in the four years.
Escobedo was the first overall pick in the 2014 NPF Draft, playing with the Pennsylvania Rebellion for three years and spending a season with the Texas Charge. Since 2018, Escobedo has been a pitcher for Scrap Yard Fast Pitch.
Finally, one of the best known and experienced members of the Italy squad is receiver and third baseman Erika Piancastelli, who is currently playing in the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited.
Pinacastelli played at McNeese State from 2015 to 2018, winning the Southland Conference Player of the Year award in each of her four seasons. She set conference records in home runs, RBI, doubles, slugging percentage and walks. In fact, she ended her college career as one of nine NCAA Division I softball players with at least a 0.400 batting average, 200 RBIs, 50 homers and a 0.800 slugging percentage. in their career.
2021 Olympics: The Olympic Spirit – Why Is Softball So Important?
For decades, it has been argued that softball be added to the Olympics, but it was not added for a variety of reasons – from a lack of affiliates to being deemed “too big and too expensive”, even when baseball returned to the Olympics after a two-decade hiatus.
Softball had barely had a taste of the Olympic experience when it was decided in 2005 that it and baseball would be withdrawn from the Olympics after the 2008 Games in Beijing. The IOC’s decision to give up baseball and softball was based on the MLB’s refusal to allow its major league pros to participate in and change the MLB season.
For baseball, as disappointing as it was, it wasn’t the biggest deal. MLB is still the best baseball league in the United States. There are baseball leagues around the world like the Nippon Professional Baseball, the KBO League, the Dominican Professional Baseball League, and the Mexican League. And the decision to remove baseball from the Olympics led to the creation of the World Baseball Classic.
Softball, however, is another story.
Softball leagues (men and women) have followed one another. And although we now have the NPF, it did fold at one point, and it doesn’t get the attention or respect that a league like MLB receives. For many NCAA women, Olympic softball (in this case and before) represents the biggest stage (in terms of athletic / world competition and media coverage) they will be able to play on following the end of their college career.
Softball (and baseball) is currently not on the table for contests at the 2024 Summer Olympics. But with the talent that will compete in this year’s Olympics, the hope is that we may attend. to phenomenal competition and maybe softball can be a permanent fixture of the Olympics once again.
And maybe, just maybe, we can get more attention and attention to a league like NPF and give softball players more professional opportunities.