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(Reuters) - Five softball players to watch out for at the Tokyo Olympics:
DANIELLE LAWRIE (CANADA)
The 34-year-old Canadian pitcher was among many players who came out of retirement to help their countries qualify for Tokyo when the Olympics announced softball's return. In the qualifiers, Lawrie surrendered only two hits and no runs, while striking out 23, during 14.1 innings.
HAYLIE MCCLENEY (UNITED STATES)
The United States will be counting on the slugger to power their offence past challenging pitching, particularly from Japan. Known as "Haylo" to team mates, she led the United States with 14 runs and 13 hits during the qualifiers.
McCleney said the COVID-19 pandemic had given the team more time to prepare.
"We’re not just going to win, we’re going to dominate," she said. "It’s gold or bust."
DANIELLE O'TOOLE TREJO (MEXICO)
The left-hander from California was living out her dream of pitching for the U.S. national team before she was dropped in 2019, opening the door for Mexico to recruit her.
"Tooly" as she is known, has been a collegiate and private coach in recent years but bringing home gold for Mexico would fulfil another lifelong dream.
"My dad would constantly say: 'Do you want to be the best? Do you want to be the best?'" she said. "Now, I will be on that stage."
STACEY PORTER (AUSTRALIA)
The expected captain's bat could deliver gold for Australia after the side claimed silver and bronze at the last two Olympic tournaments. The 39-year-old is familiar with some of the arms she will face, having played professionally in Japan and the United States. She also broke the world record for international games played in 2019.
ERI YAMADA (JAPAN)
Japan's fan favourite hit the decisive home run in 2008 that dropped Team USA to silver for the first time at the Olympics. The left-handed hitting outfielder's patience at the plate and ability to get on could again be pivotal if Japan's shutdown pitchers hold up their end.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Peter Rutherford)