Lauren Chamberlain
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Softball’s Olympic return will not include NCAA home run record holder

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Lauren Chamberlain, who smacked the most home runs in NCAA softball history, has retired one year before the sport returns to the Olympics in Tokyo.

“I’m officially announcing my retirement, and I never thought that I would say those words,” she said on ESPN at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. “But unfortunately, I can only go as far as my body will let me, and it’s just not letting me go any further.”

Chamberlain, 25, smacked 95 home runs while at the University of Oklahoma from 2012 to 2015, but she never played on a U.S. team at a world championship. Shoulder and back surgeries the last two years set back a potential bid to make the 15-woman Olympic team.

She was one of 43 players invited to try out for this year’s national team but did not make the cut of 18 in January. The 2020 Olympic roster will be 15 players. Selection trials will be held in the fall.

Two pitchers with Olympic experience are the most notable names on the current national team — 2004 and 2008 Olympian Cat Osterman and 2008 Olympian Monica Abbott.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic softball coach named

Ken Eriksen named U.S. Olympic softball coach for sport’s return

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Ken Eriksen, the longtime U.S. national softball team head coach, will be the Olympic head coach at the 2020 Tokyo Games, softball’s return to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008.

Eriksen, the U.S. head coach since 2011, guided world championship-winning teams in 2016 and 2018, the latter qualifying the Americans for the Tokyo Olympics.

“The players that kept the dream alive for every girl that has played this game deserve all the credit,” Eriksen said in a press release. “There have been so many who’s names will not be on the roster in Tokyo that have helped us maintain a gold-level standard. I will never forget what they did for this program and for the United States.”

A former fastpitch player, Eriksen has also coached the University of South Florida women’s program since 1996 and was an assistant on the last U.S. Olympic title team in 2004.

Eriksen will become the third U.S. Olympic softball head coach, following the late Ralph Raymond (1996 and 2000) and Mike Candrea (2004 and 2008).

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MORE: First U.S. Olympic softball coach dies at 94

Ralph Raymond, first U.S. Olympic softball coach, dies at 94

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Ralph Raymond, the head coach of the first two U.S. Olympic softball teams that earned gold medals, died Tuesday at age 94, according to USA Softball.

Raymond was already considered the greatest coach in softball history before playing a key role in the sport’s Olympic debut in 1996.

He set USA Softball records with a 332-9 record and .974 winning percentage as head coach, including going 72-1 in winning five world championships from 1974 through 1994. He was inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Raymond was then a natural choice to be the first U.S. Olympic softball head coach for the Atlanta Games, where softball was played in nearby Columbus, Ga.

“Raymond was pivotal in the popularization of the sport of softball prior to the 1996 Olympic Games,” USA Softball said in a release. “Raymond’s impact on the game will endure due through some of the legends of the game he coached.”

He returned to guide the team through a turbulent Olympics at Sydney 2000. The U.S. bounced back from three straight losses to Australia, China and Japan to beat all three nations in the elimination rounds.

Softball returns to the Olympics in 2020 after being voted off the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.