The Team Italy softball squad (ranked #10) clashes against USA (ranked #1), Japan (ranked #2), Canada (ranked #3), Mexico (ranked #5), and Australia (ranked #8) in the Tokyo Olympics next year. Two days before the Tokyo Olympics Games Opening Ceremonies take place, the softball competion begins at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. The single round-robin opening round featuring the six softball nations begins at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on Wednesday, July 21 before moving to Yokohama Baseball Stadium from Saturday, July 24 through Tuesday, July 27.
Team Italy plays USA on Wednesday, July 21 at 12 noon (local time). 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 2021.
The Azzurre softball squad takes on Australia on Thursday, July 22 at 3 pm (local time). The Aussies were the last team to qualify for the 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 2021.
After a day of rest for the Olympics Opening Ceremony, the Italians return to challenge host Japan on Saturday, July 24 at 8 pm (local time). As the host county, Japan automatically qualified for the 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 36. Having earned medals for Japan in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Eri Yamada embodies the spirit of a true champion.
Team Italy clashes against Mexico on Sunday, July 25 at 8 pm (local time). 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.
Team Italy faces Canada on Monday, July 26 at 2:30 pm (local time) to finish opening round action. 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 2021.
The top two teams in the opening round compete for the Olympic Gold Medal on Tuesday, July 27 at 8 pm (local time), while the third and fourth-place teams battle for the bronze earlier in the day at 1 pm (local time). Team Italy softball manager Enrico Obletter summed up the competition in the Tokyo Olympics and 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