Beaver Softball head coach, signees have successful Olympic run

Laura Berg, head coach of the OSU Softball team, can be seen on the field. In Tokyo in July, Berg won silver in the 2020 Olympics—her fifth Olympic medal. 

Isabelle Taylor, Sports Contributor

Oregon State Softball Head Coach Laura Berg earned her fifth Olympic medal during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (delayed to 2021 due to the pandemic), while 2021 Beaver signee Tarni Stepto made her Olympic debut.

Team USA finished second in the 2020 Tokyo Softball Championship after losing to Japan in the Gold Medal Match 2-0. 

Despite the Americans entering the match undefeated, the home team outperformed the reigning Olympic Champions, resulting in the Americans walking away with silver. 

With not only a five-time Olympic medalist head coach but also an incoming Olympic pitcher, the Beaver Softball team is set for a great season ahead. 

Berg’s 2020 Olympic run only adds to an already impressive coaching career. In 2012, Berg joined the Beaver coaching staff after having one of the most successful softball careers in Team USA and NCAA history. Berg was recruited to the Team USA coaching staff in 2012, where she served as assistant coach for the U.S. National team during the International Softball Federation XII World Women’s Championships and has continued to work with the team every year since. 

Associate Head Coach Marcie Green expressed that working alongside Berg has been her greatest honor.

“We share the same alma mater; Fresno State and we have the same vision for success,” Green said. “Changing the culture of the team and the direction of the program has been the goal. With the upgrades to our facility and continued support from our athletic administration, we feel the program is headed in the right direction.”

Green also expressed the goal that she shares with Berg for player development and success.

“Ultimately, we want our student-athletes to be successful in life, not just on the softball field,” Green said. “It is important to us for our players to be able to correlate success on the diamond to success after college.”

As a player, Berg secured herself in USA Softball history as one of the game’s greatest outfielders. She was part of the gold medal winning team in 1996, 2000 and 2004, as well as winning silver in 2008. 

“Coach Berg is undoubtedly the most decorated Olympian in the sport of softball,” Green said. “Competing and now coaching at the Olympic games provides a unique level of education. Experiencing different cultures and how they strategize and compete is very beneficial when cultivating success amongst a diverse environment of athletes.”

Berg’s experience of being in the gold medal game reinforces what she embodies to “put in the work, trust the process and the game will reward you.”

Berg was joined in Tokyo by rising star Stepto, who made her Olympic debut in style. 

Stepto, 21, served a key role of pitcher for the Australian Softball team. The Aussies were challenged against the strong Americans on Sunday, where Stepto pitched “one of the best games of the tournament,” according to Beaver Athletics. Stepto’s Aussie spirit was able to hold Team USA scoreless in the first seven innings of the game, prior to forgoing a single earned run in 7.1 innings of work. 

The Americans ultimately proved too strong for the Aussie team, walking off at the bottom of the eighth winning 2-1. The result advanced the Americans to the gold medal match. 

Green expressed the value that Stepto will bring to the team after her involvement last week in Tokyo. 

“Tarni brings a wealth of experience to our staff,” Green said. “Competing at the international level, especially in the Olympic games in Tokyo, she will add another dimension of maturity to our team.”

Stepto, native of northern Sydney, is one of the most experienced players the Beavers have ever seen. The Australian team member competed in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Asia and Oceania Olympic qualifier where the Aussies were undefeated and has represented Australia numerous times at the international level. 

Stepto spent the 2019 collegiate softball season at Salt Lake Community College, where she was awarded Scenic West Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year holding a 12-3 record and Earned Run Average of 1.62. Later that year, she signed with OSU Softball and is set to join the Beavers in the fall. 

Stepto will be joining OSU senior Mariah Mazon, one of OSU’s most successful pitchers in program history. 

“We have an elite pitcher returning [named] Mariah Mazon, and she has been the leader and anchor of our staff the last four seasons,” Green said. ”With the addition of Tarni, having that Mazon and Stepto combo is going to be very exciting to see. Both Mazon and Stepto will also contribute to the offensive side of our team, so that provides Coach Berg with many options when constructing her lineup.”

Green explained the enthusiasm that Stepto will bring to the team.

“Tarni is passionate about the game, brings great energy to her team and loves to compete,” Green said. “She is considered a two-way player in softball. Not only does she dominate in the pitching circle, but she has the offensive skill set as well.”

Grace Messmer, OSU Softball shortstop and third baseman, commented on her team and said, “Each day the goal is to make us as a whole better, and it takes every single person in order to do so.” 

Stepto and the current Beaver roster will be joined in the upcoming 2022 season with an incoming class that consists of 11 freshmen and two transfer student-athletes. 

The Softball season is set to begin in February, where fans will be able to come and watch the team play live at Kelly Field on OSU’s Corvallis campus.