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Osterman, Abbott headline 2019 USA Softball roster

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Cat Osterman has two Olympic medals and one of the most impressive resumes in her sport. That didn’t stop her from crying when she learned she’d made the 2019 USA Softball roster.

“I am not even too proud to say I bawled like a baby,” Osterman told ESPN. “I just cried.”

On Monday, USA Softball announced the 18 players who will compete in tournaments and events in the next few months before the roster is trimmed to 15 for the Pan American Games this summer.

Osterman, the youngest member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2004, and Monica Abbott, Osterman’s teammate four years later in Beijing (and the youngest member of that team), are the only two with Olympic experience. The roster includes 13 members of the team that won the WSBC World Championship last summer (including Abbott), qualifying the U.S. for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Osterman and Abbott are two of the most accomplished women in softball: Abbott, 33, pitched a perfect game in an 8-0 victory over the Netherlands at the 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. finished with a silver medal. In 2016, the Salinas, California native signed the first $1 million contract in the National Pro Fastpitch League with the Scrap Yard Dawgs (the Texas-based team is now called Scrap Yard Fast Pitch and competes independently).

Osterman, 35, retired in 2015. But in October 2018, she announced her return to the sport, hoping to vie for a spot on the 2020 Olympic team. Currently a pitching coach at Texas State, she had her doubts about coming back to high-level competition: “I struggled in some parts [of the tryout] and felt like I was back to my old self in parts,” she told ESPN. “When you haven’t seen a hitter in a game situation in more than 1200 days, it’s going to take some getting used to.” But Osterman, who pitched in the 3-1 loss to Japan in the 2008 Beijing final, felt she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete for another Olympic spot. “Plain and simple, there’s unfinished business,” she posted on social media when announcing her comeback.

Selection to the 2019 roster does not guarantee players a spot on the Olympic team. USA Softball will conduct separate selection trials in the fall.

The sport will return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. U.S. women won three straight gold medals from 1996 to 2004 before losing to Japan at the Beijing Games.

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Cat Osterman unretires for softball’s Olympic return

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Pitcher Cat Osterman is coming out of a three-year retirement to try out for the U.S. softball team, two years before the sport is played at the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

“My heart is racing with excitement as I post this,” was posted on Osterman’s social media. “Last fall I made the decision to put the cleats back on and give it a go one more time. Plain and simple, there’s unfinished business. I’m honored and excited to be trying out for the @usasoftball USA National Team in January… excited is an understatement when I think of the journey ahead.”

Osterman, 35, last played professionally in 2015 and last played for Team USA in 2010. She has been an associate head coach for Texas State since 2015.

In 2008, she pitched the first five innings of a 3-1 loss to Japan in, at the time, the last Olympic softball game. The sport had already been voted off the Olympic program.

In 2004, Osterman made her first Olympic team at age 21 while taking a year off from the University of Texas. She was the youngest player on the team that took gold in Athens.

“I experienced the greatest joy I think I can ever have, being on top of the world, and then I spent 12 months absolutely beside myself because we got a silver,” Osterman said, according to espnW. “But how many people don’t even get to say they won a silver?”

Osterman joins fellow pitcher Monica Abbott and 39-year-old outfielder Kelly Kretschman as the three Olympians among 41 total athletes trying out for the national team. The oldest U.S. Olympic softball player since the sport was introduced in 1996 was 39-year-old Dr. Dot Richrdson at Sydney 2000.

In 2020, USA Softball will choose a 15-woman Olympic team. Osterman or Abbott, the U.S.’ two primary pitchers at Beijing 2008, would break Lisa Fernandez‘s record as the oldest U.S. Olympic pitcher.

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MORE: U.S. softball qualifies for Olympics, wins worlds on walk-off

U.S. softball qualifies for Olympics, wins worlds on walk-off

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The U.S. qualified for softball’s return to the Olympics and won the world championship on an extra-inning walk-off Sunday.

Kelsey Stewart drove in the winning run in the 10th as the U.S. beat host Japan 7-6 to repeat as world champs. The Americans rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the last frame against Japanese star pitcher Yukiko Ueno.

“They always find a way to come back,” U.S. coach Ken Eriksen said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in what your swings looks like, what your pitch is supposed to do. Just play softball.'”

Softball is back on the Olympic program in Tokyo in 2020 after being cut following the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Americans qualified for the six-team Olympic tournament when Japan eliminated Canada from the world tournament in Japan earlier Sunday.

With Japan already qualified for the Tokyo Games as host nation, the U.S. clinched the lone berth available at worlds.

The U.S. and Japan met in the last seven Olympic and world championship finals dating to 2006, including Japan’s upset of the U.S. in the 2008 Olympic final.

The U.S. went 9-0 for the tournament, including beating Japan in the semifinals, 4-3 in eight innings, on Saturday.

Eriksen paid tribute to Ueno, who pitched a total of 17 innings between two games Sunday in hot and humid weather.

“There are not many pitchers who could do what she did,” he said. “It shows you how great she is. We got fortunate that she ran out of gas at the end, her ball wasn’t moving as much as it was in the last inning.”

Monica Abbott, the fifth U.S. pitcher used, picked up the win despite giving up two runs on one hit over the final two innings. Abbott, 33, is the only player on the U.S. team who played in the Beijing Olympics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: 49-year-old Olympic champion plays first event in 10 years

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