They might have saved the best for last.
With the looming prospect of softball being permanently removed from the Olympic rotation after next summer's games, the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) has assembled a 2008 USA Softball Women’s National Team that may be the country's strongest squad yet--and certainly a favorite to capture the gold in Beijing.
Stocked with athleticism, offensive firepower and a young-but-dominant pitching staff, the 18 members of this year's squad, including 12 2004 Gold medalists, will spend the next year training for the games in China and eventually compete for the 15 open spots on the 2008 USA Softball Women’s National official roster.
The members of the 2008 National Team:
Monica Abbott, Salinas, Calif. (University of Tennessee ‘07) – Abbott, the youngest member of the team, is a two-time member of the National Team. She has also competed as a member of the 2004 World University Team and 2003 Junior Team. Abbott led the pitching staff in 2007 with a 6-0 record for a 0.00 ERA. In 26.2 innings pitched, she issued no walks and no earned runs.
Laura Berg, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. (Graduate ’98) – Outfielder Berg is one of two three-time Olympic gold medalist to be selected to the 2008 Women’s National Team. Along with her two Olympic gold medals, Berg has captured gold at four World Championships and three Pan American Games as well as received the honor of carrying the flag during closing ceremonies at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Crystl Bustos, Canyon Country, Calif. (Palm Beach C.C.) –Bustos has established herself as one of the most feared hitters in the World and will look to earn her third Olympic gold medal. The team will look to her for a repeat performance of the ‘04 Games where she broke Olympic records with five homeruns and 10 RBI. She is coming off a 25-RBI summer in 2007 where she had 22 hits with a team-high seven homeruns.
Andrea Duran, Selma, Calif. (UCLA ’06) – Duran makes her third-consecutive appearance on the National Team roster after spending time on the World University, Elite and Junior team rosters. Solid at third base, Duran made an impressive run the past summer including a grand slam at her first Pan American Games. She is also a two-time World Cup Champion as well as 2006 World Champion.
Lisa Fernandez, Long Beach, Calif. (UCLA ’95) – Right-handed pitcher Lisa Fernandez makes her return to the National Team roster after a three year hiatus. She will possibly be making her fourth appearance at the games, one of only two athletes to accomplish this. She has pitched in three Olympic games, including earning the win in the circle of the Gold Medal 5-1 victory over Australia in 2004 as well as a top offensive contributor hitting .545 (12-for-22) at the Games.
Jennie Finch, La Mirada, Calif. (Arizona ’02) – Two-time World Champion Finch will look to become a two-time Olympian, after making the National Team for her seventh consecutive season. Finch has dominated in the circle, even coming back three months after having her son Ace in 2006 to compete the remainder of the season. Finch made two appearances at the ’04 Games, working 8.0 innings with 13 strikeouts.
Tairia Flowers, Tucson, Ariz. (UCLA ’04) – A utility player at first, third and catcher, Flowers has been a solid player for the red, white and blue with six seasons of experience at the National level. The 2004 Olympian emerged this past 2007 leading the team throughout the summer with a batting average of .543 including her first career grand slam at the World Cup of Softball.
Vicky Galindo, Union City, Calif. (Cal ’04) – Galindo has combined speed, power and defensive play to become an all around player and will look to continue that as she looks for a spot at her first Olympic Games. Galindo, seeing time at second and designated player, is coming off an outstanding 2007 where she was second on the team with a .500 (18-for-36) batting average and no errors in the field.
Alicia Hollowell, Suisun, Calif. (Arizona ’06) – Hollowell, in her third-consecutive year on the National team, brings another right-handed pitcher to the pitching staff. Hollowell, earned her first World Championship in 2006. In 15 appearances as a member of the National Team, Hollowell has posted an ERA of 0.19 with a 7-1 record.
Lovieanne Jung, Fountain Valley, Calif. (Arizona ’03) – Second baseman Jung has been a fixture on the National Team level since 2002 when she made her first appearance at the ISF World Championships. She is a two-time World Champion and Pan American Champion and is looking to earn her second-Olympic gold medal after drawing a team-high five walks during the ’04 Games.
Kelly Kretschman, Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. (Alabama ’01) – A 2000 Olympic team alternate and 2004 Olympic team member, Kretschman makes her second-consecutive season on the team roster after a year absence. She came back strong in 2007 hitting .474 (18-for-38) with 13 RBI and 15 runs scored. Kretschman played in all nine games of the 2004 Games and was the only one on the roster to hit at least one single, double, triple and homerun for a .333 average.
Lauren Lappin, Anaheim, Calif. (Stanford ’06) – Lappin, the youngest member of the 2004 National Team at 19, served as an alternate at the 2004 games but will look to compete at the Games this year. Lappin had a stellar return to the National Team roster in 2007, hitting fourth on the team with a .480 (12-for-25) average.
Caitlin Lowe, Tustin, Calif. (Arizona ’07) - Lowe has served as leadoff batter over the past couple seasons for the National Team and will be making her fourth National Team roster. Since 2005, Lowe has contributed 74 hits and scored 60 runs, the third best of the team. She is also 23-25 in stolen bases in 58 games played at the National Team level.
Jessica Mendoza, Camarillo, Calif. (Stanford ’02) – Outfielder Jessica Mendoza has been one of the top run producers on the USA National Team since the 2001 season. In 2006, she played a major role in the U.S. winning its first World Cup as well as its seventh-World Championship title, including hitting the game winning homerun in the Gold Medal game of the World Championships.
Stacey Nuveman, La Verne, Calif. (UCLA ’02) – Catcher Stacey Nuveman was an integral part in both the 2000 and 2004 Gold Medal Victories. She had the only hit of the 2000 Gold Medal game and a homerun in the 2004 Gold Medal Game. Nuveman returns to the squad after taking of the 2007 season with the birth of her son, Chase.
Cat Osterman, Houston, Texas (Texas ’06) – Osterman has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the world, defeating some of the world’s top teams. She has earned the start and complete game in the circle in big games including the championship games at both the 2006 World Championships and 2006 and 2007 World Cup.
Jenny Topping, Whittier, Calif. (Cal-State Fullerton ‘03) – Providing depth behind the plate, Topping enters the 2008 National team roster for her seventh season. Topping earned the starting spot as catcher in 2007 with Nuveman out for the season. Topping saw action in four games during the 2004 Olympic Games, going 4-for-6 for a .667 average.
Natasha Watley, Irvine, CA. (UCLA ’03) – A highly recognized shortstop, Natasha Watley joins her seventh National team after an exceptional 2007 season. She hit .466 with 27 hits and a team-high two triples, scoring 21 runs. For her efforts at the Canada Cup, she was named to the All-Tournament team for the shortstop position. She started all nine games at the ’04 Games, tying a team-best 12 hits for a .400 average.
Coaches for the 2008 USA Softball Women's National Team will be Head Coach Mike Candrea (Casa Grande, Ariz.) from the University of Arizona, Assistant Coach Chuck D’Arcy (Sacramento, Calif.), Assistant Coach Karen Johns (Charlottesville, Va.) and Assistant Coach John Rittman (San Jose, Calif.) from Stanford University.