Australia and Olympic Softball
After being omitted from the Olympic program for the last eight years, softball will make its return to the Games in 2020, where the Aussies will hope to bring home their fifth consecutive Olympic medal.
Australia competed and won medals at every edition of Olympic softball. The sport made its debut in Atlanta in 1996 and the Aussie Spirit won bronze. The team played China in the preliminary final, going down 4-2.
Four years later at their home Olympics in Sydney, the Aussies again won bronze, losing their preliminary final to the USA 1-0. Athens 2004 saw the Australian team improve in the medal rankings winning silver. Australia defeated Japan 3-0 in the preliminary final to progress to the gold medal match where they faced the US, eventually going down 5-1.
Beijing 2008 was a bittersweet Games for the Australian softball team. With softball removed from the Olympic program following Beijing, this was the last opportunity for Olympic glory. The team progressed through the preliminary rounds with five wins and two losses, forcing them to face the tough Japanese side in the bronze medal final. The match that took places was a marathon effort for both sides, lasting three and a half hours as both sides fought in the do-or-die match for a shot at gold. The game remained in a deadlock until the conclusion of the 12th inning. Japan’s Mishina Masumi, who had been in the third base, dashed out and reached the home plate before her Australian counterparts could deliver the ball back. The winner sent the Japanese into the final while the Australian team settled for the bronze medal.
Softball was granted Olympic status in Atlanta in 1996, without ever being a demonstration sport.
The United States won gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004 but were pipped for the top of the podium by Japan at Beijing in 2008.
At the IOC meeting in July 7, 2005, baseball and softball were voted out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, becoming the first sports voted out of the Olympics since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics.
In late 2013, the International Olympic Committee voted to reinstate wrestling at the Tokyo 2020 Games, defeating the combined baseball-softball bid.
Over a year later in Monaco, the IOC voted and agreed that the Tokyo 2020 organising committee could resurrect baseball and softball onto the Olympic program.
In September 2015, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee announced that along with four other sports, the reintroduction of Softball/Baseball would be recommended to the IOC.
Finally, on August 3, 2016, the International Olympic Committee approved the return of baseball and softball to the Olympic program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo
Each team has a maximum of 15 players and 9 players take the field in each game, except when a designated hitter is used, in which case there are 10.
The aim of the game is to advance batters from base to base around the diamond, after hitting the ball. A run is scored each time a batter makes to back to the home plate.
The fielding team tries to get a batter or runner out and this can happen when a third strike ball is caught by the catcher; when a batter hits a ball that is caught on the full by any of the fielders; or when a batter or runner is beaten by the ball to one of the bases, or is tagged off base.
Games last seven innings. If scores are level at the end of nine innings, the tiebreak rule is enforced whereby the player scheduled to bat ninth starts the innings on second base. A mercy rule exists whereby if a team trails by more than 10 runs in the fifth inning or thereafter the game is stopped. All of the teams compete in a single pool and play each other once. The top four teams advance to the semi-final stage, where the first-place team and the third-place team plays against the fourth-place team.
The winner of the game between the first and second-placed teams gets an immediate place in the grand final. The loser gets a second chance, playing the winner of the other semi-final in a preliminary final. The winner of the preliminary final advances to the grand final, with the loser receiving the bronze medal.