The Tokyo Olympics have finally arrived. Softball leads off the Olympic slate and six countries will face off across a week full of games, putting out their best efforts in order to reach the medal stand at the end of the tournament.
With Olympic softball now just hours away, here are six bold predictions for softball’s return to the Games.
1. A North American team that is not the United States will play for the Gold medal.
Canada has never medaled in the Olympic Games; Mexico has never set foot on the Olympic softball stage. Both bring strong contenders into Tokyo. Canada’s combination of Olympic veterans and fresh, yet experienced, faces gives their roster a well-rounded look, while Mexico’s roster is chock full of former collegiate stars who are now veterans of the Mexican squad. In a smaller Olympic field than in years past, both teams should put up a fight towards for the Gold.
2. Erika Piancastelli will cement her case for the title of world’s best hitter.
The title has been conveyed on Piancastelli in the past, primarily after her bouts of extreme power and average in international tournaments. Piancastelli is a smooth, consistent hitter and the backbone of the Italian offense, and she now has a chance to shine on the Olympic stage. Don’t expect her to miss the opportunity to become an international sports name with her dynamic bat and stellar play – she’s primed and ready for the chance.
3. Mexico’s pitching staff will emerge as the most consistent staff in the Olympic tournament.
Dallas Escobedo, Taylor McQuillin, and Danielle O’Toole each spent time competing in the Duel in the Desert, the bitter rivalry between Arizona State and Arizona. Now, these three are teammates and part of the Mexican bullpen. Look for the trio to shine on the Olympic stage. Escobedo has remained largely consistent since her collegiate playing days, through years playing professionally in the US and abroad. O’Toole and McQuillin have both enjoyed pro stints of their own, including in Athletes Unlimited last summer, and the three mesh nicely to give opposing offenses fits.
4. Kaia Parnaby will shine on the Olympic stage.
Australia’s pitching ace may not have the name recognition of Gabbie Plain to American audiences, but Parnaby was and is one of the world’s best in the circle all in her own right. A veteran hurler, Parnaby is among the group of international stars that have bided their time in search of getting to experience the Olympic dream. Now that she is on that stage, look for her experience and skill to shine through.
5. Team USA’s defense will define their results.
The strength of Team USA’s pitching staff, primarily focused on Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, goes without saying. The offensive firepower is there, if occasionally MIA. When Ken Eriksen and Co. assembled this US roster, defense was very clearly a prioritized quality. Players like Aubree Munro and Ali Aguilar are known for their defensive abilities as much as anything else, and the defense of the team as a whole will be what defines the United States in these Games.
6. Japan will win the gold medal.
Even without the X-factor of a raucous home crowd, the Japanese team is the most experienced and are the medal favorites for a reason.