By Scott McDonald | Aug. 01, 2019, 3:10 p.m. (ET)

Cat Osterman high fives with teammates during in Game 3 against Japan on June 25, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. 

 

Playing softball at the University of Texas was a dream come true for Houston native Cat Osterman. After an accomplished high school career, she was pegged as the starting pitcher for the Longhorns as soon as she stepped on campus. And soon after she first donned the burnt orange in Austin and began the daily rigors of competing for a national power like Texas, the path to Team USA and two Olympic Games became a reality.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee last week launched the Olympians & Paralympians Made Here campaign, which advances Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities on college campuses across the country. Osterman said her time at Texas prepared her to compete at the highest level, which included making two U.S. Olympic Teams, and now she’s making a push for another as softball was brought back to the Olympic program for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Osterman credited longtime Texas softball coach Connie Clark, who retired in 2018, with pushing her to become a better player.

“At Texas, I got a lot more experience than I would have probably gotten anywhere else,” Osterman said. “I have to credit Coach Clark, who threw me into the fire. She helped give me the experience I needed to make the 2004 (Olympic) squad.”

Osterman began her career at Texas in the spring of 2002, when she helped lead the Longhorns to a Big 12 regular-season championship — the first in school history. They went on to win the conference tournament, and Osterman was named was Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, something she won every year she played at UT.

As a sophomore, Osterman helped the Longhorns duplicate their dual conference titles, and she led her team to the Women’s College World Series while being named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

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She was granted a redshirt in the 2004 season so she could train with Team USA for the Olympic Games in Athens, where the Americans won gold after throttling all their competition by a combined score of 55-1. Osterman was the only collegian, and the youngest member, on the American roster.

Osterman returned to Texas for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, making the College World Series each year. The tall lefty with an imposing mound presence, blazing fastball and wicked breaking pitches won USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year twice more; she remains the only three-time recipient. Osterman also earned the ESPY in both 2005 and 2006 for top collegiate female athlete.

“My experience at UT was a dream come true,” Osterman said. “In college, I had the opportunity to play alongside good players and compete at the highest level. It truly helped me transition to the national team.”

Osterman finished her Texas career with 136 wins, 20 no-hitters, 85 shutouts and a 0.51 earned-run average — all of which remain school records. She still holds the national record of career strikeout ratio of 14.35 per seven innings, and her 2,265 career strikeouts remain the second-best all-time in NCAA Division I history 12 years after she graduated.

Her career with Team USA was just as dazzling, as she went on to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, and she accumulated a 59-4 career record while striking out an eye-popping 832 batters in 425.2 innings pitched.

Though Osterman retired from Team USA following the 2010 world championship, she played professional softball for eight years and won four championships before retiring in 2015. She has been an assistant softball coach at different colleges around the country, and she is currently the associate head coach at Texas State in San Marcos, where she trains pitchers.

She’s also playing again.

After softball was left off the program at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the sport was added back for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, where the sport enjoys tremendous popularity. Osterman announced her return to the sport last October, and she was named to the 2019 national team in January. She’s currently with the U.S. team competing at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

The big goal, though, is making the Olympic team.

“I’m working on trying to make the team going to Tokyo,” said Osterman, who turned 36 earlier this year.

The path through her last two Olympic appearances and potentially another one started when she enrolled at Texas, which she said made a world of difference for her.

“I credit the success I’ve had by my time at UT,” she said. “It helped open up new opportunities I never would have expected.”

Scott McDonald is a writer from Houston who has covered sports for various outlets since 1998. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.