Americans on many teams as softball returns to Olympics


By RONALD BLUM - AP Baseball Writer



FILE - Auburn's Emily Carosone (5) waits for the late throw as Oklahoma's Raegan Rogers advances to second base on a ball hit by Kelsey Arnold during the second inning of the second game of the best-of-three championship series in the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, in this Tuesday, June 7, 2016, file photo. Italy’s roster for the Tokyo Games includes second baseman Emily Carosone, born in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

FILE - Auburn's Emily Carosone (5) waits for the late throw as Oklahoma's Raegan Rogers advances to second base on a ball hit by Kelsey Arnold during the second inning of the second game of the best-of-three championship series in the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, in this Tuesday, June 7, 2016, file photo. Italy’s roster for the Tokyo Games includes second baseman Emily Carosone, born in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)


FILE - Team USA's Bubba Nickles (48) throws the ball to the infield after making an out against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo. U.S. coach Ken Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)


FILE - Team USA's head coach Ken Eriksen watches his team take to the field for the fifth inning against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo.Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)


Softball is back on the Olympic schedule — for Tokyo

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Softball was dropped for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. It has been dropped again for the 2024 Paris Games but is expected to return for 2028 in Los Angeles.

WHAT’S NEW: What had been an eight-nation tournament in Beijing has been reduced to six: the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan and Mexico. Under the new format, each nation will play a single round-robin for a total of 15 games. Third- and fourth-place will play for the bronze medal and first- and second-place for the gold. Games on July 21-22 will be played in Fukushima, the rest of the tournament in Yokohama.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The United States won the first three softball gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and has been waiting for this moment since it was upset by Japan 3-1 in the 2008 gold medal game. Australia’s team was among the first athletes to travel to the Olympics, arriving in Japan on June 1.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: LHP Cat Osterman, the losing pitcher, and LHP Monica Abbott, who relieved, are the two holdovers on the 15-woman U.S. roster, which was announced on Oct. 6, 2019, and remains unchanged.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT: The medal games are July 27.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Ken Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics.

“Over the last probably 16 years you’ve seen the world catch up in softball because of the opportunities that USA Softball provided in the teaching and the clinics overseas, but also the colleges started to recruit some really good athletes overseas and develop them,” the U.S. coach said. “And then the rules have been relaxed in respect of do you have to be a 100% citizen, whatever that means, in quotations, of a country that’s playing. And so we are going to be playing against a lot of citizens of the United States that happen to be on Italy, that happen to be of Mexico, that happen to be of Canada.”

Seventeen of the 19 players currently on Mexico’s roster are listed on the team’s website as living in the United States.

Italy’s roster includes second baseman Emily Carosone, born in Orlando, Fla.

Infielder Kelsey Harshman, who was born in Tucson, Arizona, is part of a Canada team filled with U.S. college veterans that include Joey Lye, who quit as Bucknell’s coach to compete for the Olympic team.

“And so that’s where those countries have caught up quite a bit,” said Eriksen, the head coach since 2011 after nine years as an assistant. “Australia has a great developmental program and Japan, a very disciplined and structured organization. So this will be an Olympics unlike any other. I think everybody right now is not that farly separated as they used to be.”

The technological revolution that has altered Major League Baseball also has impacted Olympic softball. Eriksen sees that both with South Florida, where he has been coach since 1996, and the U.S.

“We play Australia and we play Japan and we play Canada and Mexico — a lot. So we have pretty good data and the analytics on teams that we play,” Eriksen said.

HOLDOVERS

The 15-woman U.S. roster includes 38-year-old left-hander Cat Osterman, the last holdover from the 2004 gold medal-winning team, and 35-year-old left-hander Monica Abbott, who joined Osterman on the 2008 team.

Osterman started and Abbott relieved her in the sixth inning of the 2008 gold medal game, a 3-1 loss to Japan that ended the Americans’ 22-game, eight-year Olympic winning streak.

Eriksen said part of their jobs are to steady the rest of the team, to tell them: “Try not to get stars in your eyes of what’s going on around you, and at the same time, understand that it’s just another tournament, just happens to have five rings on it, but it’s still another tournament and you’re going to play softball and try to win the moments instead of trying to win the medals.”

NEWCOMERS

Among the younger Americans are Rachel Garcia, a 24-year-old right-hander pitcher and infielder; Dejah Mulipola, a 23-year-old catcher; and Bubba Nickles, a 23-year-old utility player.

GETTING UNDERWAY

The U.S. opens the six-nation group stage on July 21 against Italy in Fukushima, where the Americans play Canada the next day. After a day off for the opening ceremony, action shifts to Yokohama, where the Americans play Mexico on July 24, followed by Australia and Japan.

First and second place play for gold medal on July 27, when third and fourth meet for the bronze.

U.S. DOMINANCE … UNTIL

The Americans outscored opponents 122-4 and won two goals medals during their 22-game Olympic winning streak that started in 2000, including 51-1 in 2004 and 57-2 in 2008 before the loss in the final.

COME AND GONE

Softball and baseball are being dropped again from the 2024 Paris Olympics but appear likely to return from for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

FILE – Auburn’s Emily Carosone (5) waits for the late throw as Oklahoma’s Raegan Rogers advances to second base on a ball hit by Kelsey Arnold during the second inning of the second game of the best-of-three championship series in the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, in this Tuesday, June 7, 2016, file photo. Italy’s roster for the Tokyo Games includes second baseman Emily Carosone, born in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126882950-5b7c4774b37a4fad8fe0970ac0c33ef7.jpgFILE – Auburn’s Emily Carosone (5) waits for the late throw as Oklahoma’s Raegan Rogers advances to second base on a ball hit by Kelsey Arnold during the second inning of the second game of the best-of-three championship series in the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, in this Tuesday, June 7, 2016, file photo. Italy’s roster for the Tokyo Games includes second baseman Emily Carosone, born in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

FILE – Team USA’s Bubba Nickles (48) throws the ball to the infield after making an out against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo. U.S. coach Ken Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126882950-2ee155402cdd4b178b30a7a7b4bf2857.jpgFILE – Team USA’s Bubba Nickles (48) throws the ball to the infield after making an out against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo. U.S. coach Ken Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)

FILE – Team USA’s head coach Ken Eriksen watches his team take to the field for the fifth inning against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo.Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126882950-9cf5c075bc51463080856c7fac36c56d.jpgFILE – Team USA’s head coach Ken Eriksen watches his team take to the field for the fifth inning against Team Alliance at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas, in this Saturday, June 13, 2021, file photo.Eriksen predicts tight competition in softball as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

Softball is back on the Olympic schedule — for Tokyo

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Softball was dropped for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. It has been dropped again for the 2024 Paris Games but is expected to return for 2028 in Los Angeles.

WHAT’S NEW: What had been an eight-nation tournament in Beijing has been reduced to six: the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan and Mexico. Under the new format, each nation will play a single round-robin for a total of 15 games. Third- and fourth-place will play for the bronze medal and first- and second-place for the gold. Games on July 21-22 will be played in Fukushima, the rest of the tournament in Yokohama.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The United States won the first three softball gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and has been waiting for this moment since it was upset by Japan 3-1 in the 2008 gold medal game. Australia’s team was among the first athletes to travel to the Olympics, arriving in Japan on June 1.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: LHP Cat Osterman, the losing pitcher, and LHP Monica Abbott, who relieved, are the two holdovers on the 15-woman U.S. roster, which was announced on Oct. 6, 2019, and remains unchanged.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT: The medal games are July 27.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports