All Scores

Thirteen Years Later, Cat Osterman Could Get the Olympic Ending She Deserves

Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Why did Cat Osterman come out of retirement and claw her way back onto the USA Softball National Team for a chance to fight for another gold medal at age 38? It’s simple. The southpaw pitcher has some serious unfinished business she needs to attend to.

Osterman’s first Olympic experience with Team USA was the epitome of sporting dominance and came in the middle of her illustrious college career at The University of Texas. Taking a red-shirt season in what would have been her junior year, Osterman pitched alongside legends Jennie Finch and Lisa Hernandez in an undefeated path to the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

Her first win of the tournament came against Japan, giving the U.S. the one seed out of group play. As the youngest member on the team, Osterman finished the tournament with two wins and a save and led the team in total strikeouts. In a recent interview with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports Podcast, Osterman explains how special thatOlympic victory was for her:

“You can win other international events and hear your national anthem and it’s cool, but nothing like on the Olympic stage.”

img
BEN RADFORD/GETTY IMAGES

Back in Austin the year after that tremendous experience, Osterman vividly remembers the moment her long-term Olympic dreams were swiped from under her feet. Watching ESPN with some fellow baseball student-athletes, they saw an announcement run across the bottom ticker stating the IOC would be removing baseball and softball from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games.

“One of the baseball players was like ‘Looks like your career is going to be ended sooner,’” Osterman recalls to O’Hara. Whether the friend intended to throw such a hurtful barb is unclear, but it perfectly delineated the starkly different realities facing the young athletes. Osterman was by far the best up and coming softball pitcher in the country, if not the world. Her counterpart on the baseball side likely had a decade-long, multimillion-dollar MLB career to look forward to, but Olympic glory once every four years was the highest stage Osterman could hope to play on. Finding out from a news announcement along the bottom line of ESPN that those dreams would be over so early in her career felt like “a slap in the face.”

 Osterman spent the next two years solidifying her status as the greatest college softball pitcher of all time. Upon graduation in 2006, she was a three-time National Player of the Year, four-time All-American, and two-time ESPY Award winner. She still holds the NCAA record for highest career strike-out-per-seven-inning ratio at 14.34, as well as UT records for total victories, ERA, shut-outs, and no-hitters.

After a stellar professional debut season in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league, it was once again time to take her skills to the global stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In another dominant performance, Osterman’s Team USA reached the gold medal match by going 7-0 in group play and outscoring their opponents a combined 57-2. Unlike four years prior in Athens, Osterman was now the top pitcher on the team, and she took the mound for the gold medal game against Japan.

Having already defeated Japan twice in route to the championship, the U.S. seemed poised for Olympic glory once again. But when Osterman came out after five innings the U.S. was trailing 1-2. Twice the U.S. couldn’t capitalize on a one-out, bases loaded opportunity, and after a wild throw home allowed Japan to score a third run in the top of the seventh, the deflation was tangible in the American dugout.

The U.S. went scoreless to finish the inning and Japan erupted into the exuberant elation of having won Olympic Gold while handing the U.S. their first Olympic loss in eight years and their first non-gold medal in Olympic softball since 1996.

img

For Osterman, it was the only two runs and only loss she’d allowed on the Olympic stage. And the aftertaste was bitter.

“Not only did we not win, it was almost a nightmare game. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” she vents to O’Hara, “It was brutal for quite a long time afterwards.”

And the salt that made the wound extra painful? Knowing there would be no chance for redemption. As far as she knew, her Olympic career was over.

Osterman spent the majority of the next near decade working in the college coaching ranks and crushing it in the National Pro Fastpitch league, a 16-year-old pro softball league where elite level players are able to continue their craft after college, albeit for extremely minimal salaries. When she retired from the NPF in 2015, Osterman was a three-time NPF Pitcher of the Year, four-time NPF Champion, and six-time All-NPF Team selection.

Upon first hearing that softball was being reinstated for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Osterman was initially just excited for the generation of players behind her, knowing they would now get to experience what she had before. Her longtime USA Softball coach encouraged her to submit her resume for a coaching role with Team USA. Shortly after acquiescing, she had an unfiltered conversation with a close friend, admitting to her, “Why am I trying to coach the team when I think I could probably still throw?”

With the unsubtle prodding only a close confidante can provide, Osterman owned up to wanting to suit up again for Team USA. So she shook off the dust, got back on the mound, and quickly proved that even in her late 30s, she is still one of the very best. This summer, playing in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited softball season, Osterman won the league’s individual title after accumulating the most player points over the course of the season. She did so while fanning many young players who looked up to her when they were kids

Whereas she was the youngest in her first Olympics, next summer Osterman will be the oldest on the roster as she heads to Japan, against whose national team she earned her first Olympic victory and also her sole Olympic defeat. Thirteen years after that premature exit from the biggest stage in sports, Cat Osterman, one of the greatest softball athletes of all time, has the chance once again to play in the global spotlight and cap her career with the (dare I say, golden) luster it deserves.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.