By Clay Fowler
Killeen Daily Herald
As far as streaks go, Eric Gagne's recently deceased run of 84 saves certainly deserves praise.
The USA softball team's current tear, however, merits something approaching worship.
The U.S. National team will put their 154-game win streak in pre-Olympic competition on the line at 7 p.m. tonight in an exhibition game at the Killeen Athletic Complex.
The Texas Elite, a club team hailing from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex will, needless to say, have their hands full.
"This is about us making strides in the right direction and not getting complacent," USA softball head coach Mike Candrea said. "We understand that we have things to work on and room for improvement."
The USA softball team is boasting a 45-0 record as it nears the end of its international 'Aiming for Athens' tour which began in February. Killeen is one of the last five stops before the squad, arguably the best team ever assembled by USA softball, embarks for Greece on July 28.
"For the city of Killeen to say we hosted the 2004 Olympic fastpitch team is unreal," said Glen Morrison, director of parks and recreation. "Americans wait four years to witness the assembly of our country's best talent and the citizens of the Killeen and greater Central Texas area have the opportunity to witness it up close and personal."
USA softball has won gold the past two Olympics. In their most recent international effort, Aug. 14 of last year, the Americans captured a fifth consecutive gold at the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic.
Houston native Cat Osterman, the only Texan on the roster, pitched a 14-strikeout no-hitter in the title game as the Americans downed Canada 4-0.
Osterman, a University of Texas junior-to-be when she returns next season, is scheduled to start at the next USA softball tour stop in Fort Worth. Two-time Olympian Lisa Fernandez will take the mound tonight with the increasingly famous Jennie Finch slated to pitch relief.
Six of the 15 team members are Olympic veterans and four of the six have twice won gold. The 2004 edition of USA softball has outscored its opponents 400-11 this tour as they prepare for the 28th Olympic Games.
"The process of growing together is something that you can't speed up," Candrea said. "It takes time. We'll have one moment in time when we get there, because when we're in the arena in Athens, obviously you've got to be able to make decisions quickly and react in the right way or it could cost you a gold medal."
Tonight's game will mark the second USA softball exhibition Killeen has hosted, the first a similar stop preceding the 2000 Games in Sydney. A crowd approaching 1,500 is expected at the Killeen Athletic Complex.
"It speaks volumes about what the organizers of the team's tour feel about Killeen and the immediate area in regards to fastpitch softball," Morrison said. "We are working hard to put on an event that allows adults and youth alike to be proud to say they got a chance to see the Olympic softball team."
Contact Clay Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org