One Year Out From 2020 Olympics, Here Are Our Predictions
We are one year away from softball being played at the 2020 Olympic Games and Softball America has some predictions.
Let’s start with predicting the field of six. The United States clinched a berth to the Tokyo Games at the WBSC World Championship last year and Japan received an automatic berth as the host country. The remaining four teams will be determined by the Europe/Africa Qualifier, the Asia/Oceania Qualifier and the Americas Qualifier in the coming days and months.
After winning the European Championship, Italy is the favorite to earn an Olympic berth this week. The lineup is loaded with power and balanced with skill and speed.
Lisa Birocci Banse has returned to the circle for the Italians. She was the 2003 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year at Iowa and an NFCA All-American in 2003 and 2005. She is currently the National Pitching Director of Frozen Ropes USA located in Hershey, Pa.
Greta Cecchetti and Amanda Fama are the two other veterans on the squad. Cecchetti has proven herself in the circle time and again, while Fama has been a threat at the top of the lineup. Mix in Erika Piancastelli, as well as the recent addition of Emily Carosone, and the Italians have a solid chance to go undefeated in the tournament.
We will have to wait until September 28 to find out who the winner of this qualifier is, but the field is guaranteed to be highly competitive.
Group A consists of China, New Zealand, Philippines and Korea, while Group B includes Chinese Taipei, Australia, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
China and Australia have both been playing professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch to get ready for the tournament.
We have to give a slight edge to the Chinese here, as they won the Asia Pacific Cup back in February and have shown what they can do throughout the NPF regular season.
Wang Lan is the ace of the Chinese staff and has a sub-one earned run average, 27 strikeouts and a 2–1 record in 29.1 innings.
The secret behind Team China is that head coach Hunter Veach has not yet played his complete starting lineup in an NPF game this summer. It’s forever rotating, so each player gains valuable experiences and playing time in order to be prepared for the qualifier.
The top-two teams from the Americas qualifier will earn Olympic bids. Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Argentina, Bahamas, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Peru and British Virgin Islands will all be competing in what is sure to be a highly competitive tournament.
Mexico is the No. 5 seed and drew the best pool if we go by rankings alone. Brazil is its highest-ranked competition at No. 14.
On the other side of the bracket is No. 3 Canada and No. 4 Puerto Rico.
Some of the Canadians and Mexicans have been playing in the NPF with the Canadian Wild and Cleveland Comets, while players from Puerto Rico are spread out throughout the league.
Honestly, it’s a toss up and will come down to pitching and timely hitting. Our gut is saying Canada and Puerto Rico will be the final two teams standing on September 1.
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Softball America spoke with former Arizona star and future Team Mexico Olympian Danielle O'Toole.
Olympic Podium Predictions (as it stands today)
Puerto Rico, Italy and China