Japan unveils Olympic softball roster for Tokyo 2020

Head coach Reika Utsugi announced the 15 athletes to represent Japan in softball’s much-awaited Olympic return in Tokyo. “I want to believe in the players and do my best, with all my heart, so I can meet everyone’s expectations,” she said.

Japan Softball Association (JSA) announced today in Tokyo the final Olympic roster to represent the country in the Olympic Games this summer on home soil. Reika Utsugi named the players during a press conference held in the country’s capital. The roster includes three pitchers, three catchers, five infielders and four outfielders.

“Of course, skills and physical competence are the necessary elements. But in selecting the 15 members, we also took their skills and motivation into consideration,” explained Utsugi. “In terms of pitchers, considering speed and the variety of pitches, we chose the ones who are the best.”

Veteran ace Yukiko Ueno and two-way player Yamato Fujita will lead the pitching staff, which is completed by young left-hander Miu Goto, who pitched Japan to the silver medal in the WBSC U-19 Women’s Softball World Cup 2019 in Irvine. “I will do my best to meet everyone’s expectations,” Ueno said.

Utsugi named also three catchers in the roster to pair with the three hurlers. Haruka Agatsuma, Nayu Kiyohara and 2008 Olympian Yukiyo Mine (who caught Ueno’s 413 pitches in the last two days in Beijing to win a historic gold medal).

Five infielders were included in the list. Mana Atsumi could play short stop for Utsugi, slugger Yu Yamamoto would play third base and Minori Naito first base. Yuka Ichiguchi and Hitomi Kawabata would be competing for the everyday second base job.

There were no surprises in the outfield, with Saki Yamazaki, Eri Yamada and Nodoka Harada leading the way, having Sayaka Mori as the fourth outfielder on the roster.

“Many people’s thoughts are connected to Tokyo Olympic Games. I want to fullfill my mission with a sense of responsibility,” Team Captain Yamada said.

The full roster is as follows (you can see the full roster with player’s profiles at JSA website –in Japanese):

  1. Yamato Fujita- Pitcher
  2. Miu Goto – Pitcher
  3. Yukiko Ueno – Pitcher
  4. Haruka Agatsuma – Catcher
  5. Nayu Kiyohara – Catcher
  6. Yukiyo Mine – Catcher
  7. Mana Atsumi – Infielder
  8. Yuka Ichiguchi – Infielder
  9. Hitomi Kawabata – Infielder
  10. Minori Naito – Infielder
  11. Yu Yamamoto – Infielder
  12. Nodoka Harada – Outfielder
  13. Sayaka Mori – Outfielder
  14. Eri Yamada – Outfielder
  15. Saki Yamazaki – Outfielder

Ten of these players were members of the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship 2018 silver-medal team, and three of them have Olympic experience: Ueno and Yamada represented Japan in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, while Mine won the gold medal in Beijing.

Japan, currently ranked No. 2 in the WBSC Women’s Softball World Rankings, will play the Tokyo 2020 softball competition as the reigning gold medallists after their stunning victory in Beijing 2008. The Japanese Women’s National Softball Team will have the honour to open the sports programme in Tokyo 2020 as the first official competition to be held. They will face Australia on 21 July, 9 a.m. local time, in Fukushima.