Rising Australian softball star Tarni Stepto will get a chance to gain valuable international experience when she joins the Aussie Spirit squad in Japan this month.
Stepto, 17, a 186cm pitcher from Sydney, will play with the Spirit in a series of exhibition games leading up to the Japan Cup in Takasaki.
Some brilliant performances at the recent Junior World Softball Championship in Florida prompted Australian selectors to add Stepto to the squad of players who will head to Japan.
Although she is not in the team for the Japan Cup itself, Stepto will play in some of the pre-tournament exhibition games, giving her valuable experience in Japanese conditions.
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow says Stepto will join the team in a development role.
“It is a good opportunity for Tarni to be around the Aussie Spirit team and play against Japan Pro League teams to help continue her development,” Barlow says.
“She put in some strong individual pitching performances at the recently completed Junior World Championship, and any game time we can get her during the exhibition games will only add to her international experiences and benefit her for the future.”
In Florida, Stepto led all pitchers with 31 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched. She allowed just two earned runs for the tournament, both coming against China, to finish with an ERA of 0.76. Her best performance was in a losing effort against powerhouse Japan in which she pitched 6.2 innings and allowed just three base runners while striking out 14. The Junior Spirit lost that game 1-0 on an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Stepto’s elevation to the squad for the Japan Cup lead-up games is recognition of her talent and potential. “It gives her an opportunity to gain experience at international level and to showcase her skills against top-quality opposition,” Softball Australia CEO Chet Gray said.
Stepto will help fill a void left by the absence of pitchers Kaia Parnaby and Ellen Roberts, who will not be available for some of the exhibition games because of commitments with the Chicago Bandits in the National Fastpitch Pro league.
Stepto has been playing softball since she was 11. She has represented New South Wales and played for the Australian Schoolgirls’ team in Hawaii. She plays for the Davidson club in the Manly Warringah Softball Association.
In the Japan Cup, the Aussie Spirit play against national teams of USA, Canada and Japan at Takasaki, 120km northwest of Tokyo, from 25-27 August.
Before that tournament, they will play seven games against Japanese professional club teams.
Exhibition games schedule:
- Aug 21 (2 games) Australia vs Toda Medics
- Aug 22 (2 games) Australia vs Toda Medics
- Aug 23 (2 games) Australia vs Honda Reverta
- Aug 24 (1 game) Australia vs Taiyo Yuden