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Oregon State Beavers softball head coach Laura Berg is a legend of the game. The most decorated USA Softball Olympic athlete in history.
Just take a look at her resume as a member of Team USA as a player: 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist; 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist; 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist; 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist; and a WBSC World Championship Gold Medalist in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
As a coach, you can now add: 2020 Olympic Silver Medalist.
Berg finished her ninth season at the helm of the OSU Softball program in 2021 and rejoined the Team USA coaching staff. She recently joined the Talkin’ Beavers Podcast to discuss her time in Tokyo.
“It was incredible. Unfortunately it’s not the gold that we were shooting for,” Berg said. “The adversity that these guys had to go through, I mean kudos to them. They just did an incredible job.”
Berg joined the Beavers' staff as an assistant prior to the 2012 season after one of the most successful softball careers in NCAA and Team USA history. During the summer of 2012, she also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Women's National Team in its run at the ISF XIII World Women's Championships in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, and has worked with Team USA in every summer since.
However, this summer was a completely different experience for Berg and Team USA. With restrictions in place due to COVID, the team’s time at the Olympics was different than anything that they had been through before.
“Everything that we had to do was different. I can’t tell you how many apps I had to download on to my phone… We had to test every single day,” Berg explained. “First thing in the morning we had to do that. And no fans. It kinda played in our favor when we were playing against Japan. Most of the stadium would have been cheering for the Japanese. At the end of the day we got play at the Olympic Games."
In three years, however, softball will not be a part of the Olympic Summer Games.
“Unfortunately for the sports of softball and baseball we are out until at least 2028 when LA hosts the Olympics... It bodes well for both baseball and softball that we will be in Los Angeles and Australia. From what I hear every single one of our games was sold out [in Japan]. They put us in a baseball stadium which was incredible. We would have had 30 to 35 thousand fans at the games. So it shows that we got the popularity. People love watching the sport of softball and baseball.”
Berg was joined in Tokyo by a future Beaver, Tarni Stepto. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the Australia National Softball Team, and has committed to play for the Beavers starting this season. The Sydney native made her Olympic debut memorable.
In an opening round matchup against Team USA, Stepto’s Aussie grit was able to hold Team USA scoreless in the first seven innings of the game. She allowed just one earned run and five hits in 7.1 innings of work.
“I first saw her in 2017 when I was the coach of the Junior Team in Florida. She caught my eye,” Berg said of Stepto. “I gave my business card to one of the Australian staff. That is how we opened up the line of communication.
"She throws hard. She has a great changeup. She throws a down-ball. A heavy ball. And she hits. She is a power hitter. We are really excited for her to get Corvallis in September. She is going to make a huge impact on our team.”
The Beavers softball season kicks off in just a few short months. Berg is excited to get things rolling and getting the team back to Corvallis.
“Looking forward to the players getting here. Get some workouts in and work in our weight room and all that good stuff.”