As for United States ace Cat Osterman, “I was crafty before I was old,” she said Monday.
Osterman, 38, wouldn’t say if coach Ken Eriksen has decided to start her against Japan, which beat the United States and Osterman for the gold medal in 2008, the last time the sport was in the Olympics.
If he does, the Americans again will place their hopes in one of the game’s best players ever, still able at her relatively advanced age to get batters out as she has done for more than two decades, relying on movement and control rather than sheer speed.
Osterman is 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings of the five-game round-robin prelude to the medal games, which concluded Monday with the United States beating Japan 2-1 on a walkoff home run in the bottom of the seventh by third baseman Kelsey Stewart.
Osterman or lefthander Monica Abbott, who is 3-0 with two saves, is the likely starter for the United States. They are the only holdovers from the 2008 team that lost to Japan, a game in which Ueno got the win.
Even though the six-team tournament has been competitive, a U.S.-Japan rematch was considered a foregone conclusion.
“I think it was pretty obvious that we assumed that’s who we would be matched up with,” Osterman said. “You never know until the games are played out, but we knew that was a strong chance we would end with them.
“And you know, I’m just excited. This tournament has been truly an amazing experience in so many ways, and I’m just excited to be in the gold medal match. We’re full of energy and ready to get after it.“
Japan also has arms to challenge the United States. Ueno has 21 strikeouts in 161/3 innings but has allowed 11 hits. Yamato Fujita took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Monday against the U.S. and has three home runs and six RBIs for the tournament as a softball version of Angels standout Shohei Otani. Lefthander Miu Goto is 3-0 for the Olympics with 21 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.
Osterman, the former Cypress Springs High School and University of Texas standout, pitched to two hitters Monday in relief of starter Aly Cerda, who allowed a run and four hits with nine strikeouts.
“Cat’s extremely deceptive, and the ball moves a lot,” said U.S. outfielder Janie Reed. “Her spin rate is immaculate. She knows exactly what she wants to do with the ball. Her curveball sweeps across horizontally, and her drop ball has a nasty bite.”aside">
Osterman came out of retirement to pitch for the 2021 team as the oldest player on the roster, 17 years removed from her debut as the youngest player on the 2004 gold medal-winning team.
She has waited a long time to see softball back on the Olympic stage, and she said the five teams in Tokyo — the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico and Italy — have demonstrated the global potential for the game.
Each U.S. win was a nail-biter — 2-0 against Italy and Mexico, 1-0 against Canada and 2-1 against Australia — and only five of 15 games fell into the blowout category.
“It’s a competitive game,” Osterman said. “I know there are fans back home grumbling about the offense, but the truth is this is a competitive game internationally, and blowouts are not happening anymore.
“I hope everyone sees how great of a game and how competitive it is and that they embrace the fact that it has grown. And it does deserve this stage.”
Source : https://www.houstonchronicle.com/texas-sports-nation/tokyo-olympics/article/Cat-Osterman-U-S-ready-for-a-rematch-with-Japan-16339898.php645