Several Southern Californians will take the field Tuesday when the U.S. Olympic softball team plays for a gold medal against Japan.
The U.S. team includes Palmdale resident Rachel Garcia and three others from Orange County. Up until a week ago, two alternates represented San Diego and Riverside County.
The U.S. serves as the home team thanks to Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Japan, as the team posted the best record in opening-round play, 5-0. They also beat Italy, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
Tuesday’s game from Yokohama Baseball Stadium, a matchup of the world’s top two teams, will be televised live by cable’s NBC Sports Network beginning at 4 a.m. PST.
Two of the Americans’ victories were walk-offs, including the win over Japan.
Japan (4-1) also had two walk-off wins in its run to the final.
The U.S. strength is its pitching. The two runs it allowed were both unearned.
Despite the tournament’s second-best batting average, .231, the U.S. has had trouble on the base paths, scoring only nine runs.
The U.S. and Japan also met in the gold-medal game in 2008, the last time softball was played in the Olympics. Japan won 3-1.
Cat Osterman lost that game but is back in Tokyo. She’s one of two players from the 2008 U.S. team who remains, along with fellow pitcher Monica Abbott.
The U.S. is ranked first by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, the sports’ international governing body, and Japan second.
Garcia, of Palmdale, has appeared as a pinch-hitter in the Olympics, going hitless in two at-bats. The pitcher-first baseman completed her UCLA career in 2021 by receiving the Honda Cup as the collegiate woman athlete of the year for the second time.
Janie Reed, a 2011 graduate of El Dorado High School in Placentia, has started all five games in left field, going 2-for-13 for a .154 batting average.
Aubree Munro, a 2012 graduate of Brea Olinda High School has been the starting catcher in all five games, going 1-for-9 for a .111 batting average.
Dejah Mulipola, a graduate of Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, started at catcher in the 2-0 victory over Mexico Friday, going 1-for-2 and scoring a run.
Hannah Flippen, a Bonita Vista High grad and replacement player on the team, earned Pac-12 Player of the Year honors while at Utah in 2017, and also was part of the 2017 Pan American Championship gold-medal winning squad.
Another replacement player, Taylor Edwards, hails from Murrieta.
Softball is not on the program for the 2024 in Paris but is expected to be for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.