Fast-pitch softball is back on the Olympic docket in 2020, which means now is the time for players to begin to make their case for the national team — for that year and beyond.
The Arizona Wildcats have two freshmen who are taking those first steps, as catcher Dejah Mulipola and infielder Jessie Harper were selected Tuesday to the USA Junior Women’s National Training Team. The 24-member squad will compete at the World Cup of Softball XII in Oklahoma City in July before being pared to 17 in advance of the World Championship.
“They’re two of our freshmen who have outstanding futures, and I think if this is any indication, then this is a great beginning for them to make this team and get a chance to compete year-round,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea, a two-time Team USA head coach for the Olympics.
“It’s always good to have kids at that level. I’m very excited for both of them.”
Congrats to Dejah Mulipola and Jessie Harper on being selected to the USA Softball Junior Women's National Training Team! pic.twitter.com/8mNh2uQt4D
Much will be determined once Arizona practice begins Monday — the season opens Feb. 9 at home vs. Fordham — but Candrea often used Mulipola at No. 2 in the batting order and Harper sixth during fall exhibition games.
“Both are good athletes, very good softball IQs,” Candrea said.
“Both of them are very mature in the game for their age. Both have good leadership abilities and both were able to keep the game slow, which is a great thing for freshmen.”
An Arizona signee — outfielder Jenna Kean — also was part of the tryout camp. She will arrive at Arizona for the 2018 season.
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Another Arizona connection: Former UA shortstop Kristie Fox, the head coach at UT-Arlington, is an assistant for the U.S. Junior Team.
Meanwhile, there are even bigger stakes for the 51 players at the on-going tryout camp for the U.S. National Team. Arizona senior pitcher Danielle O’Toole and redshirt freshman outfielder Alyssa Palomino are competing for spots on that team.
The training camp concludes Thursday.