2019: Softball Olympic Qualifiers - Mexico in Olympics for first time as softball field complete

2019: Softball Olympic Qualifiers - Mexico in Olympics for first time as softball field complete
Mexico qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time as four nations - Australia, Canada, Italy the others - secured their berth for the softball’s historic return to the Olympic Programme at Tokyo 2020, joining hosts Japan and 2018 world championship winners USA.

“I just tried to stay calm, enjoy the moment, enjoy the crowd," said Mexican pitcher Dallas Escobedo after pitching her team to the Olympic Games for the first time ever at the WBSC Americas Softball Qualifier in Surrey, Canada. "It’s just exciting being here and living this moment."

Mexico won the 10-team tournament thanks to key wins over Puerto Rico and Canada, 2-1, to remain unbeaten. While Canada claimed the second ticket on offer by finishing second.

A total of 10 teams from the Americas competed for the two available Tokyo 2020 spots in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, from 25 August to 1 September. The tournament also served as a qualifier for the WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup 2021 and the World Games Birmingham 2021. Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and Brazil advanced to the World Cup, while Canada and Mexico also qualified for the World Games.

2019 Series: Year in Review
Softball Olympic Qualifiers - Mexico in Olympics for first time as softball field complete
Baseball Olympic Qualifiers - Israel's historic first time in Olympic baseball tournament
Development - Africa Dev Programme & Women’s Baseball lead impressive year of growth
Premier12 - The “biggest int’l baseball event in recent history”
WBSC - Huge year sets up foundation for bright future
Baseball5 - Continues to spread like "wildfire"
President Fraccari: “2019 - The biggest year in int’l baseball, softball history”
Men’s Softball World Championship - Argentina clinch historic title as Europe hosts for first time
Chinese Taipei wins U-12, U-18 Baseball World Cups, Asian Championship, Fed of the Year

At the beginning of the year, two teams had already booked their place at Tokyo 2020. Japan, as host, was the first team confirmed in the softball event, while USA qualified in 2018 as the winner of the WBSC World Championship in Chiba, Japan. The other four teams, qualified through the three Olympic Qualifiers held in 2019.

Softball National Teams qualified for Tokyo 2020


WBSC Softball Europe/Africa Qualifier

The WBSC Softball Europe/Africa Qualifier, the first softball Olympic qualifier of the year, was held in Utrecht, Netherlands, from 23-27 July, with the top two African nations and the best six European countries battling for one berth in the Olympic Games. Botswana, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain played the five-day tournament divided into two groups.

Group A included the Netherlands, Great Britain, South Africa and Spain, while in Group B played Italy, Czech Republic, France and Botswana.

During the last day of the round robin, Great Britain stunned the hosts the Netherlands to clinch the first spot in Group A; while Italy won Group B and advanced to the Super Round undefeated, along with the Czech Republic.

Italy and Great Britain remained unbeaten until the final day of the qualifier, where they faced off with the Olympic spot at stake, and the Italian National Team earned a place in Tokyo 2020 defeating Great Britain, 5-0.

“It’s a dream come true! I can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Italian pitcher Greta Cecchetti. “The last 40 days were great. We won the European Championships three weeks ago and today we got the ticket for Tokyo 2020. What is the secret of this victory? The group won these games.”

Italy advanced to the Olympic Games for the third time in history. The azzurre participated in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, finishing in fifth and eighth position respectively.

“I’m feeling a lot of emotions. We are going to the Olympics. It’s such a crazy thing,” said slugger Erika Piancastelli after the win over Great Britain. “We did a lot in these weeks. We broke records, we showed everybody who Italy really is. I think the biggest emotion is happiness. It’s amazing what we did.”

An emotional moment during the tournament was the retirement of Netherlands pitcher Rebecca Someru. She earned a standing ovation from mates and fans, and she also took a curtain call. In her career with the Dutch National Team, she competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

WBSC Americas Softball Qualifier

The softball national teams of Mexico and Canada earned a place in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, sealing the top two spots of the WBSC Softball Americas Qualifier.

Group A featured Canada, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala and Bahamas. Group B included Mexico, No. 14 Brazil, No. 16 Venezuela, No. 19 Dominican Republic and No. 20 Peru.

While Mexico went through the tournament unbeaten, Canada had to wait until the last day of competition to book their ticket to Tokyo. To do so, they defeated Brazil, 7-0, in five innings in front of a fully packed stadium in Surrey. Kaleigh Rafter belted a walk-off home run to center field in the bottom of the fifth episode and sent Canada to their fifth Olympic Games.

Kaleigh Rafter, the Canadian catcher, said: “It’s been a long journey, a growing journey, I’m just excited for the teammates. I love this country, I love softball, I love playing for this team… It’s been a part of me since I first tried-out at 19 years old. It’s everything, it’s kind of who I am now”.

“The reality is that for most of the players it will be probably the only opportunity to go to the Olympics, so I think it’s especially sweet for them, and for the older ones is the chance to go back and make right the experience they had 12 years ago, that didn’t go the way they hoped,” said Canada Head Coach Mark Smith. “I know how hard they’ve worked, I know the time they’ve put in, and I know the personal sacrifices they’ve made.”

Canada will try to win their first-ever medal in their fifth participation at the Olympics.

In the last day of competition, Venezuelan legends Maria Soto and Denise Fuenmayor played their last game in the national team jersey. They both represented Venezuela at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Softball Asia/Oceania Qualifier

The WBSC Softball Asia/Oceania Qualifier was held in Shanghai, China, from 24-28 September, with the best teams from Asia and Oceania competing for the last spot in softball’s historic return to the Olympic Games. The top six teams from Asia and the best two from Oceania battled through 16 games for a place in Tokyo 2020.

The eight participating teams were drawn into two groups:

In Group A China played host to New Zealand, Philippines and Korea. Group B included the top-ranked team, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, China.

Four teams advanced to the Super Round, China and the Philippines in Group A, Australia and Chinese Taipei in Group B. Australia reached the last day of the event undefeated, and clinched their spot in Tokyo 2020 with a 9-3 victory over hosts China.

Australia was dominant throughout the tournament, leading the teams in all the pitching stats: the Australians only allowed 4 runs in 30 innings, for a 0.93 ERA. They fanned 33 opponents. Kaia Parnaby won 3 of the 5 games played, allowing 4 runs in 20 episodes (1.40 ERA). She collected 17 strikeouts.

Offensively, the green and gold squad was also impressive, with a team-combined .394 batting average. Individually, Taylah Tsitsikronis and long-time legend Stacey Porter led the way for Australia, hitting .500.

Two-time Olympic medallist and Australian National Team captain, Stacey Porter, said: I waited for 12 years to return to the Olympics and it is so rewarding to be back at the Tokyo Olympics. It was not an easy path but the girls stuck in there and we worked hard to qualify. They fully deserve the slot.

“Having won a silver at the Athens Olympics and the bronze in Beijing, I am looking forward to the gold medal in Tokyo. It is not going to be easy, but we are determined to emerge tops this time around.”

Australia is one of only two countries with four Olympic medals: one silver and three bronzes (the other nation is the United States).

“It’s an awesome feeling. It has been the longest week, but the players got their reward at the end of it with their hard work,” said Robert Harrow, Australia Head Coach. “It is simply great to be back at the Olympics after a twelve-year wait. We have a great history in the Olympics, having won four medals – one silver and three bronze medals. I am aware the competition in Tokyo is going to be much tougher with higher-ranked teams. But we ourselves have to step up to the next level. We are going for the gold!”

Softball Olympic History

On 13 June 1991, the International Olympic Committee announced during the 97th IOC Session in Birmingham, England, that women’s softball would make the first Olympic appearance at the Atlanta 1996 Games. To remember this date, 13 June was declared by the world governing body as World Softball Day.

The first-ever Olympic softball game was held on 21 July 1996, between hosts USA and Puerto Rico at the 8,800-seat Golden Park Stadium in Columbia, Georgia, at the Centennial Olympic Games. A total of 120 athletes competed at the event, representing eight nations: Australia, Canada, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Chinese Taipei, USA. More than 120,000 spectators sold out the nine days of competition. USA defeated China in the final, 3-1, to claim the first Olympic softball gold medal. Australia clinched the Bronze.

Four years later, softball experienced its second Olympic event at Sydney 2000. Eight teams were qualified for the Sydney 2000 Olympic softball tournament. Australia, the Olympic host nation, qualified automatically. Then the top four teams from the 1998 Women's World Championships in Japan, excluding the Olympic host team qualified. These were Canada, China, Japan and the USA. The other three entrants were determined by qualification tournaments for Europe/Africa (Italy), Pan American Region (Cuba) and Asia/Oceania (New Zealand). USA defeated Japan, 2-1, in the gold medal game; it was the first Olympic medal for Japan. Australia won again the bronze.

For Athens 2004, Australia, Canada, China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Chinese Taipei and USA qualified for the Olympic Games. Japanese legend Yukiko Ueno threw the first and only 7-inning perfect game in the history of Olympic Softball so far. USA won the third consecutive gold medal, followed by Australia (silver) and Japan (bronze).

The last Olympic softball tournament so far was held in Beijing 2008, at the Fengtai Sports Centre Softball Field, with capacity for 10,000 fans. Monica Abbott pitched a 5-inning perfect game against the Netherlands in the opening round. However, the playoffs saw a historic performance by Ueno, who pitched 28 innings in two days to guide Japan to their first-ever gold medal. USA earned the silver and Australia the bronze. For both countries, it was the fourth Olympic medal in as many editions.

1996: 1) USA 2) China 3) Australia 4) Japan - Canada-Chinese Taipei-Netherlands-Puerto Rico
2000: 1) USA 2) Japan 3) Australia 4) China - Italy-New Zealand-Cuba-Canada
2004: 1) USA 2) Australia 3) Japan 4) China - Canada-Chinese Taipei-Greece-Italy
2008: 1) Japan 2) USA 3) Australia 4) Canada - China-Chinese Taipei-Venezuela- Netherlands