Moultrie is now the teacher on Team USA

Michelle Moultrie has been a leader on Team USA for several years. (Photo by USA Softball)

By Michael Kinney

Michelle Moultrie has been part of the USA Softball program since 2011 and has traveled the world playing the sport she loves. Before that she was a star at the University of Florida who collected All-American credentials and College World Series appearances.

Yet, despite the success the Jacksonville, Fla. Native has earned, Moultrie still sees her career as unsuspecting and unlikely.

“It’s kind of been like surprising,” Moultrie said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t see myself going this far. I think when you get chosen for things like this, it’s almost a surreal type of thing. I had a much better college career than I thought I would. Given this opportunity was something I never imagined would happen. It’s been awesome.”

Moultrie may be the most recognizable player on the current Team USA softball team, which just won the World Championships. Wherever the team goes, she is a fan favorite. Her style of play in the outfield and at the plate is one of the factors that helps the squad play an entertaining brand of softball.

But Moultrie says being able to take the field wearing the uniform with USA emblazon across the front is reason enough to be excited about the game.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity. Just from the very first year, it doesn’t really change,” Moultrie said. “Every year that you make the team, you have that same feeling like ‘OMG, I get to represent my country.’ It’s a really amazing experience. It’s different each year. We play in different places. There is new people that come on the team. So I think it’s just a really cool, life opportunity. Just really amazing.”

Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy transition for Moultrie. After the success she found with the Gators, she suddenly had to learn to deal with failure on a national stage.

“It is a game you really have to learn, especially the failure side of having a bad day or bad at bat,” Moultrie said. “One thing I’ve learned is to try and stay calm through that and just know that each day is going to be different than the next.”

As easy as Moultrie makes it sound, she says it’s been one of her most difficult adjustments in softball. But the benefits have proven to help her in all facets of her life.

“It’s pretty tough,” Moultrie said. “But a lot of things you do on the field can just help you in life. Experiences like you can’t sit too long on things you didn’t do well. Learn from it and kind of move on. Good things will happen next time.”

As one of the longer tenured veterans on Team USA, Moultrie finds herself teaching the younger players in the program on how to deal with failure and how to respond to it on world stage.

“A lot of the young girls are great, but it is a hard transition from college to here,” Moultrie said. “The game is a little bit different. That is something we tell each other, encourage each other. It’s a long summer and we’re working towards the end. A lot of times, especially being at a high level, you can go up and down with how you’re performing. But coach (Ken) Erickson, he is so inspirational. And he always reminds us what a great opportunity it is here and how special it is to be on this field.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer and can be contacted on

At Team USA Level, basics is at the core


By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – The game of softball has changed considerably over the decades. Everything from the gloves players use to the uniforms worn has gone through a transformation.

Even the way players are taught the game has changed. There is now more technology involved in the game than ever before. However, according to two-time U.S. Olympian and Cal State Northridge softball coach Tairia Flowers, there is no better teacher of softball than the pure basics.

“The biggest thing we see is being able to play catch,” Flowers said. “Field the ball, throw it to a target, be able to hit somebody in the chest every single time. If you watch, the majority of the errors in games at this level are going to be throwing mistakes because they are rushing their tempo.”

Flowers, who is also serving as coach for USA Softball’s developmental squad, the USA Elite, led the team to a fourth-place finish at the World Cup of Softball last week in Oklahoma City. Even at the international level, Flowers likes to see her players get in serious work on the tee. Hitting the ball off a tee is something little kids do when they are first learning how to play the game, but she feels it works just as well in keeping the skills of veteran players sharp.

“I am always a fan of tee work,” Flowers said. “I think you can get a ton of work in without having to adjust to speed and tempo and the ball moving. You can perfect your swing off the tee.”

The Elite roster is filled with women of varying degrees of experience and ages. That includes Sam Fischer, who has been with USA Softball since 2012.

Fischer agrees with her coach that the most important work softball players of all experience levels can do is throw, catch, hit, and field.

“Keep it simple. Always keep it simple,” said Fischer, who is a native of Simi Valley, California. “I’ve been around for a long time, and there are more and more things that are coming out that are taking away from the basics. So if we get back to basics and just work on the foundation, girls are going to get better than if they use all these tool and different stuff. Keep it simple for sure.”

For 18-year-old Madilyn Nickles, who has yet to even start her collegiate career at UCLA, training her mind to do the right movement in the right moment is part of the keep it simple philosophy. She says it helped her land a spot with USA Softball at such a young age.

“I did mental drills more than anything,” Nickles said. “That was always my biggest issue growing up. It still is to this day. Physically I’d say do the little things. The little tweaky little drills that you need to do to become successful. You can’t really do the same exact thing every time in a game. You just really need to work on things that will make you confident in a game.”

Fischer does suggest one bit of technology to help players get better. But even that is just a prelude to more hard work.

“What I would say with the technology we have now, film yourself when you’re hitting,” Fischer said. “Film yourself when you’re fielding. Watch what the girls on the USA team or in college are doing and see what looks similar. See what they do differently, what they do better. And just get out and get reps. When I was growing up I really didn’t do a ton of drills. But I was out there getting hundreds and hundreds of reps. So no matter what, you’re going to get better when you’re practicing. Even if you are just swinging off a tee, you’re going to get better.”

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Japan knocks of Team USA in World Cup

Pitcher Jaclyn Traina delivers a pitch for Team USA during World Cup of Softball XI in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – After a two year absence the World Cup of Softball made its return to Oklahoma City this summer. But just like in most years, the two best softball programs in the world, met up again in the finale to battle over the crown.

Facing Japan, it was all set up for Team USA in the Gold Medal game to close out the week as heroes.

Instead it was Japan who found a way to close the door on a potent USA lineup and earn a 2-1 victory July 10 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

“Tonight against a good team like Japan, we gave them some free bases and really didn’t have the type of hitting that we needed,” said catcher Aubree Munro.

With the victory Japan claimed the World Cup of Softball XI gold medal, while the Americans were left with the silver. It was their only loss of the week.

“I was very proud of the fact that we had young kids step up this week, we didn’t panic and sometimes the difference between a Gold and Silver is a fingernail,” USA coach Ken Eriksen said. “I think when you take a look up and down our lineup, everybody can hit it well.  We’ve got rookie pitchers out here that are moving in the right direction.  I can’t wait for us to get to the Worlds (Championships) and get started.”

Team USA faced Japan last year In the World Cup and came away with an easy 6-1 win. Japan turned the tables this time around.

Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning, Team USA loaded the bases with only one out on the board. A single hit could either tie the contest or also plate the go ahead run.

But Team USA was unable to connect and Japan got the final two outs to close out the night.

Japan went undefeated at 7-0 while Team USA finished the World Cup of Softball with a 6-1 record.

“I think this week was good for us in really coming together,” Munro said. “Ti felt like this tournament really gave us an opportunity to play as a team consistently. It wasn’t just a few games here or there like we had been doing over the last month. It was really good for us to be in the same area for an extended period of time. Also, every time you play Japan, you get more information. You are more prepared for the next time you play Japan. They are a really good team. They prepare very well. So this is going to help us.”

Japan has defeated Team USA in 3 of the 4 meetings this summer.

USA Elite, the national team’s developmental squad, lost a heart breaker to Japan July 9 to close out pool play. That placed them in the Bronze medal game against Australia.

One again, the Elite saw their contest come down to the final innings, before they fell 4-3.

“The team hit the ball well, it just comes down to whoever plays the best at the end,” Elite coach Tairia Flowers. “This team can swing the bat, and now they’ve gotten the chance to see how international softball is. We have some really talented girls.  They’re young, they’re excited and they want to get better.”

Because of the success of both USA teams at the World Cup, Eriksen is excited for what the future offers the rest of the year at the WBSC World Championships (July 15-24) and the Japan Cup (Aug. 24-Sept. 5).

“You take a look at what we did, and what the USA Elite did,” Eriksen said, “and you can see the future is bright for USA Softball.”

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