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Reika Utsugi talks strategy, set to announce Japan Olympic softball roster

Reika Utsugi talks strategy, set to announce Japan Olympic softball roster
During an interview with Tokyo 2020 website, Utsugi made clear the fundamentals of her game philosophy. She will announce the 15-athlete list for Tokyo on Tuesday, 23 March.

The Japanese Women’s National Softball Team last week wrapped up a very important training camp in Okinawa, the last one before head coach Reika Utsugi announces the 15-athlete roster for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will be done on Tuesday, 23 March. During an interview with Tokyo2020.org, Utsugi spoke about her philosophy and game strategy. (You can read the first part of this interview here).

A slugger in her playing days with the Japanese National Team, Utsugi acknowledges the importance of power hitting in today’s international game. She says it’s difficult to get three consecutive hits in a game, so over 80 per cent of the games are won with home runs.

“Japan is now training to develop more power hitters," Utsugi says. "Our opponents’ pitchers will also have a plan. Their head coach would look at past statistics and tell the pitcher how to pitch. So I tell my players to practise anticipating the pitches by reading the opponents.”

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However, Utsugi’s philosophy puts defense and pitching as the core of her team’s game strategy. “Defense starts with our pitcher, and the objective is to keep the opponent’s score at zero.

"It wouldn’t be so hard to win if we could hit all the time, but we need to think about how to win when their pitcher is very good. It goes back to good defense.

“I take pride in Japan’s defense, which is the best in the world, and I think we should all be confident.”

Utsugi delved into the importance of pitching as a key factor in winning softball games.

“If the batter hits a homerun from our pitcher, we’re likely to lose," Utsugi said. "The ball travels farther with a softball bat, and the playing field is not so big either.

"We have to prevent our opponents from hitting home runs, and we have to make sure we hit some bombs. This summer, it will be up to having a stronger will and determination than the other teams.”

That’s why Ueno’s name is the key for Japan’s success, according to Utsugi. The head coach and Ueno have been in the game together for 20 years.

“Not only can [Ueno] win a game, but she has what it takes to execute the strategy of the head coach to become the number one in the world," said Utsugi. “We want to win the gold medal, and I’m sure that everyone in Japan shares our desire.” 

It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Softball Japan to play in the Olympic Games hosted by Tokyo, so the squad going to give their maximum effort to win the gold medal, says Utsugi.

Tokyo 2020 – Olympic Softball