Team USA huddles together after defeating Team Italy 2-0 in their opening round game during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Fukushima, Japan. (Photo by Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The United States is currently the No. 1 country in the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s World Softball Rankings with 4,900 points, 1,699 more than No. 2 Japan.
Points are earned by participating in and winning international tournaments such as the World Cup or Pan American Games.
With the U-15 U.S. women’s softball team winning a gold medal at the 2023 World Cup, the United States now holds every World Championship in women’s softball.
The most recent USA women’s softball team to be crowned champions is the U-15 Women’s Team. They defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 in the championship game of the U-15 Women’s Softball World Cup to win the gold medal. USA starting pitcher Macie Bryant allowed just one hit and struck out 17 in the contest.
In the eight games the gold medal winners played, they scored a combined 70 runs and gave up just three. Their only loss in the tournament was on Friday, October 27, against No. 2 Japan. Japan scored their only two game runs in the second inning, but the United States could only muster one run in the bottom of the seventh inning on an inside-the-park home run from Aspen Boulware.
As a team, the U.S. U-15 players hit .417 in the World Cup with 60 RBI. Sam Alekman led the team with a .579 batting average. On the mound, the pitching staff dominated opposing hitters. Macie Bryant recorded an absurd 54 strikeouts in 23 innings.
The 2023 World Cup is the U.S. U-15 Women’s National Team’s second championship in 2023 after taking down Japan 1-0 in the title game at the Utsugi Cup in Takasaki City, Gunma, Japan. None other than Macie Bryant pitched a perfect game in the contest.
The U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team has also been very successful as of late. They defeated Chinese Taipei in 2021 to win the U-18 Women’s World Cup and hold the U-18 World Cup record with eight gold and fourteen total medals. Japan is close behind with five gold medals and 13 total.
Before winning the 2021 World Cup, the U.S. won gold at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games, dominating all six opponents. It was apparent from the beginning of the games that opposing teams had little to no chance, as the United States scored 71 runs with a team batting average of .460. The U.S. pitching staff allowed no earned runs and just five hits in 30 innings.
Valerie Cagle was named the WBSC U-18 Women’s Softball World Cup MVP in 2021 and then the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2023. Cagle is a two-way player for Clemson University and had a .500 batting average with 20 strikeouts on the mound in 12.1 innings for the U.S. in the 2021 World Cup.
When asked how it felt to win the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, Cagle remained humble and acknowledged her teammates.
“I think it can be easy to watch someone’s success on the field from the outside and not understand the pieces that helped carry them forward,” Cagle told World Baseball Softball Confederation reporters. “Nothing I accomplished this season would’ve been possible without my teammates or coaches and us having the success we had as a team. My teammates’ support allowed me a chance for me to be me, so because of that, I would like to share this award with them.”
The breakout star threw a complete-game shutout against Chinese Taipei in the 2021 U-18 World Cup Championship game, striking out 13. Cagle and many other current collegiate softball players are candidates to represent the United States at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.
The next event the U-18 U.S. Women’s Softball team can participate in is the 2024 Women’s World Cup Group Stage, followed by the 2025 World Cup Finals. There have yet to be locations or dates announced for the events.
Finally, the team leading the way for the younger United States softball players is the Senior Women’s National Team, which has won three Olympic gold medals and three consecutive World Cup championships.
World No. 2 Japan defeated the U.S. in the gold medal games at the 2008 and 2020 Summer Olympics, but the U.S. defeated Japan in the last three gold medal games in the Women’s Softball World Cup. In 2022, the United States defeated Japan 3-2 in the gold medal game in Birmingham, Alabama.
The U.S. defeated Chinese Taipei, Botswana, Australia, and Great Britain in Group A of the 2023 WBSC World Cup in Dublin, Ireland, to advance to the 2024 XVII World Cup Finals in Italy. They outscored their opponents 28-0 in four of their six games on the schedule. Their other two games on Friday, July 14, against Great Britain and Ireland were canceled due to weather.
Just one month after returning from Ireland, the team headed to Iwakuni to compete against Japan in the Japan All-Star Series, which was held at Kizuma Stadium, Azuma Stadium, and Yokohama Stadium from August 4-7. Japan won the three-game exhibition series two games to one, but the United States pulled off an exciting 12-11 extra-inning win in game one. Megan Grant, a utility player for the University of California, Los Angeles, hit two home runs in the contest.
According to Usasoftball.com, over 15,000 fans across three different cities in Japan attended the Japan All-Star Series.
The United States is participating in the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. Team USA is in Group A with Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. They won their first game over Chile 18-0 in three innings on Sunday. Since softball was introduced to the Pan American Games in 1979, the U.S. has won nine gold medals and holds a 100-5 overall record.
The USA faces off against Venezuela on Monday, October 30, and Mexico on Wednesday, November 1. The Pan American Games Super Round will begin on Thursday, November 2, and the Medal Round will start on Saturday, November 4.