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What awaits the Team Italy softball squad in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Team Italy softball squad (ranked #9) clashes against USA (ranked #1), Japan (ranked #2), Canada (ranked #3), Mexico (ranked #5), and Australia (ranked #7) in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Two days before the Tokyo Olympics Games Opening Ceremonies take place, the softball competion begins at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. The single round-robin tournament between the six softball nations continues at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Thursday, July 23 before moving to Yokohama Baseball Stadium from Saturday, July 25 through Monday, July 27. The Olympic Women's Softball Gold and Bronze Medal Games will also be played at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on Tuesday, July 28.

USA was the first team to qualify for the 2020 Olympics after defeating Japan 7-6 in the 2018 World Championship Final on August 12, 2018 in Chiba, Japan. Pitchers Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, USA Olympic softball stars of the past, and 2016 WBSC Women's World Championship Gold Medalist Amanda Chidester are projected to lead the Americans in the hunt for Olympic Gold in 2020.

As the host country, Japan automatically qualifies for the 2020 Olympics. Japan's Yukiko Ueno, one of the best softball pitchers in the world, is the face of the team that took the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Japan Women’s National Softball Team Captain Eri Yamada is in her prime as a hitter at age 35. Having earned medals for Japan in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Eri Yamada embodies the spirit of a true champion.

After defeating host Canada 2-1 in the WBSC Softball Americas Qualifier Championship Final on August 31, 2019, Mexico punched its first ever ticket to the Olympics. Mexico pitcher Dallas Escobedo, who received the 2011 Women's College World Series MVP Award when leading Arizona State University (ASU) to a national championship title, will be accompanied by former ASU All-Stars Chelsea Gonzales and Sashel Palacios in Tokyo.

WBSC Softball Americas Qualifier runner-up Canada shut out Brazil 7-0 in a winner-take-all contest on September 1, 2019 to officially clinch a spot to the Tokyo Olympics. Veterans Danielle Lawrie and Jenn Salling, Olympians at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2009 NCAA National Champions while playing for the University of Washington, are a pair of proven winners. Catcher and fellow Olympian Kaleigh Rafter would like Canada to shake off its fourth-place finish in 2008 and bring home a medal in 2020.

Australia was the last team to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after a 9-3 victory over host China in the WBSC Softball Asia/Oceania Qualifier Championship Final in Shanghai on September 28, 2019. Pitcher Kaia Parnaby went undefeated (3-0) in the tourney while Taylah Tsitsikronis led the Aussies in all hitting categories. The Australian softball team will participate in its fifth Olympic competition. Having won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 38-year-old Australian National Team Captain Stacey Porter is going for the gold in 2020.

Team Italy softball manager Enrico Obletter recently summed up the competition in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He said, "We have our work cut out for us. We fear no one and greatly respect all of these great teams. We have never beaten Japan, USA, Canada, or Mexico before; however, there is always a first time… “ Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti

Team Italy manager Enrico Obletter sums up the competition in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Women’s Softball Games