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Strong Christian core anchors US softball team in game's return to Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
A general view of the new National Stadium prior to a media tour of Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues on July 03, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. |

The U.S. Olympic softball team came up just short in the sport’s return to the Games after a 13-year absence, losing 2-0 to Japan in the gold-medal game on Tuesday.

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Runs in the fourth and fifth innings put Japan ahead, and unlike its last two games, there were no late heroics from the U.S. The team had allowed its opponent to score first in its past two games but then came from behind for dramatic walk-off wins.

A brief U.S. rally in the sixth inning Tuesday was cut short by a line drive that ricocheted off one Japanese player and was caught by another, leading to a double play.

The U.S. has advanced to the championship game in all five of softball’s Olympic appearances, but after winning gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004, the Americans have fallen to Japan in 2008 and now 2021. That ’08 defeat had served as motivation while the U.S. waited for an opportunity to reclaim gold. The ending, however, was not the one the Americans envisioned.

The U.S. squad is led by a strong core of outspoken Christians, including two of its standout performers in the gold-medal game: pitcher Cat Osterman and outfielder Janie Reed.

Osterman got the start in the circle and threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk. The 38-year-old was a member of the 2004 and 2008 teams and made a third Olympic team despite retiring from the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2015. She decided to play again in 2018 and was moved to tears when she learned she had made the 15-player Olympic roster.

“So many emotions and so much time put into getting back to that spot,” Osterman said in May 2020 on the Sports Spectrum Podcast, in which she also shared about her faith journey. “To see it all pay off was awesome.”

The U.S. only managed three hits in the game, two of which game from Reed. She wound up with a triple after nearly hitting a home run in the first inning, though she was later called out attempting to score on a dropped third strike.

The 28-year-old Reed, whose husband Jake is a professional baseball player, also saved a run with a spectacular catch at the wall in the seventh inning to keep the deficit at two.

Reed shared on Sports Spectrum’s Recalibrated Podcast in January that she and catcher Aubree Munro had conversations before heading to Tokyo about how they would handle the potential disappointment of not winning gold, and understanding a gold medal cannot fulfill them.

“Failure is just an opportunity to show people my hope, my joy, my peace is not in the game,” Reed said on the podcast. “It’s in Jesus, and to really try to show people who Jesus is and what it looks like to be a Christian.”

Reed and Munro were among a core group of national team players to launch Church on the Dirt, a softball ministry. Both women have also contributed first-person essays to The Increase, which is a part of Sports Spectrum. In her most recent article, Reed talked about finding joy while facing adversity and allowing God to produce fruit in us during difficult times.

“Going through times of fear or disappointment is not easy, but we can know God will use those times to produce perseverance in us,” she wrote. “It’s up to us to decide if we are going to use these situations to find joy, knowing God has a lot of fruit to produce in us as a result. We can become so comfortable in the lives we create for ourselves that we often don’t realize all the mini idols we hold in our hearts.”

Unfortunately, softball and baseball will not be in the next Olympics, which take

place in Paris in 2024. But the World Baseball Softball Confederation hopes to get their sports back in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

This article was originally published on SportsSpectrum.com. Visit Sports Spectrum for daily sports and faith content, including magazines, podcasts, devotionals, videos and more.

RELATED STORIES: — INCREASE STORY: Pressing Closer To God – Janie Reed— MAGAZINE: U.S. Softball Legend Cat Osterman is Back in the Game with Purpose— NEW PODCAST: Cat Osterman – U.S. Olympic Gold Medal-Winning Softball Player

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