OLYMPIC...

Olympians Beat the Pros (Again)

Team USA Makes a Statement Against Team NPF

NORMAL, ILLINOIS Although the Olympians had defeated the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars a week ago in Oklahoma City, there was talk that they would falter in their big rematch today. After all, the pros had played the Olympians extremely tough in their first meeting—in fact, they had led half the game. And with another week for the hastily assembled NPF team to prepare, this repeat matchup promised to be spectacular. 
 
But the Olympians had other plans, dismantling the pros in a business-like fashion 6-0. Superstar hurler Jennie Finch was a major factor, closing down the potent NPF offense with surgical precision in the two-hit shutout. 
 
For their part, the pros used every major pitching weapon at their disposal—2007 NPF Pitcher of the Year Desiree Serrano, 2007 NPF Rookie of the Year Kristina Thorson, and MVP of the 2008 Women’s College World Series Katie Burkhart—but Team USA’s bats were just too powerful. Crystl Bustos led the way, going 3-for-3 with one RBI off a solo home run. 
 
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Red, White & Blue defeated the Bloomington Lady Hearts 19-0 in a game shortened to four innings due to the slaughter rule. At this point, Team USA has to be considered a prohibitive favorite for a fourth consecutive Gold medal at the Beijing Games. Read more.

 

Can Olympic Softball Really Be Saved?

The Truth About Softball's Reinstatement for 2016

In August, 2005 the International Olympic Committee voted to remove both baseball and softball from the Olympic schedule at the 2012 London Games. The vote couldn’t have been any closer: a 52-52 tie with 1 member abstaining. A vote to reinstate softball a year later was defeated 47-43, sealing its fate for the 2012 Games
 
Next year there will be a vote to reinstate softball for the 2016 Olympics—which interestingly could take place in Chicago, stomping grounds for
Jennie Finch and her pro softball Chicago Bandits
 
What can you do to help save softball as an Olympic
sport? Some fans have taken matters into their own hands—like Jamie Gray, originator of the SaveSoftball.com petition drive and star of TSC’s “Saving Softball” video. But for most, knowing the real truth behind the IOC’s heartbreaking decision is the first place to start. Read more.

 

Japan Wins Olympic Softball Gold

Ace Hurler Yukiko Ueno is Virtually Unstoppable; Team USA Stunned by 3-1 Loss, Wins Silver

BEIJING, CHINA  Team USA took to Fengtai Field in the Gold Medal Game as defending Olympic Champion, having to face the powerful Japanese team—undefeated in Beijing save for dual losses to the US. 
 
Cat Osterman started
in the circle for the Red, White & Blue, striking out Japan’s first four batters with her incredible ball movement. On the Japanese side, ace Yukiko Ueno took to the mound—their lone pitcher in the playoffs. Yesterday Ueno had played an incredible 21 innings, throwing 319 pitches. Although she was tired, she was the only Japanese pitcher capable of beating the Americans, having bested them in the 2005 World Cup Final. 
 
Team USA started fast out of the gate, loading the bases in the first inning, but Japan’s strong defense kept them from scoring. Japan countered in the third when Masumi Mishina hit a lead-off double, her first hit of the tournament. Ayumi Karino then batted her in with two outs on the board, giving Japan the early lead. It was the first time Cat had given up a run in two Olympics, and only the second time Team USA has trailed during the 2008 Games. 
 
Japan extended its lead to 2-0 at the top of the fourth when Eri Yamada hit a lead-off home run, as rain started to fall on the ball park. It was the largest deficit yet for the US in their seven round robin and two playoff games. 
 
A rain delay gave the Americans a chance to regroup. Ueno’s nemesis Crystl Bustos then took to the plate and hammered one of her patented “Bustos Bombs” to get the US back into the game 2-1. Stacey Nuveman almost followed with a homer of her own, but her deep fly ball fell just short of the fence. 
 
US Coach Mike Candrea made a pitching change at the top of the sixth, bringing in Monica Abbott for Cat Osterman—a shrewd move given the fact that the Japanese had a hard time hitting off Abbott yesterday. And where was Jennie Finch? Team USA's most experienced pitcher happens to be a right-hander, and with seven of the nine Japanese batting lefty, southpaws Osterman and Abbott were simply better choices. 
 
Team USA threatened to take back the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Ueno intentionally walked Crystl Bustos with Caitlin Lowe on second, and then Kelly Kretschman walked to load the bases with one out. But two pop-ups left all three US baserunners stranded. 
 
In the top of the seventh Megu Hirose scored on a suicide hit-and-run, bringing Japan’s lead back up to two runs. Vicky Galindo then came through with a clutch pinch hit single for the US, but three quick outs later Japan was celebrating its first-ever gold medal finish in softball. 
 
It was a magnificent moment for pitcher Yukiko Ueno. After carrying Team Japan on her shoulders throughout the medal round, throwing an amazing 409 pitches in two days, her teammates returned the favor by hoisting her on theirs. Read more.
 

The 'Osterman Code'

Japan May Have Cracked It to Win Olympic Gold

The gold medal softball game drew the highest rating in Japan of any Olympic sporting event. And for two years the Japanese team had been specifically preparing to face off against Team USA and their ace, Cat Osterman, in that monumental game. The Japanese coaches knew it would take an ingenious strategy to overcome the superior size and power of the Americans. So were they able to crack the “Osterman Code,” revealing Cat’s pitches to their batters in advance? Some compelling evidence from Japan's state-sponsored TV indicates they were. Read more.
 

Jennie Calls for Chicago Olympics

Dreams of Olympic Softball's Return in 2016

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS  Although softball has been dropped from the 2012 London Olympic Games, there’s a good chance it will make a comeback in 2016—and what better place than in Chicago, Illinois, home of the Chicago Bandits, the new champs of professional women's faspitch softball? 
 
That’s the argument made by Bandit superstar Jennie Finch yesterday
during taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the Windy City. Oprah welcomed Jennie and approximately 175 of her fellow Olympians to the season premiere of her talk show, both as a thank you for their extraordinary efforts and to promote Chicago in its bid to host the Games. The show airs Monday, September 8th, on ABC. 
 
So is it really possible Jennie could pitch in the 2016 Olympics, if softball makes a comeback to the Games?  Absolutely. Jennie’s shown no sign of slowing down any time soon, and although she’d be 35 years old in 2016 (her birthday was yesterday), she’d be one year younger than Australia’s ace Tanya Harding was at this summer's Games. 
 
One thing’s for sure: Jennie will be playing pro ball in Chicago for the foreseeable future, as she recently signed a three-year contract extension with the Bandits. She’ll also likely participate in a series of exhibition games with Team USA next summer.
 
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