It has been a great few months for the Aussie Spirit, but they still have some work to do to match it with the world’s best.
So says Head Coach Fabian Barlow, who has seen his team perform well in tournaments in the USA, Canada and Japan in the northern hemisphere summer.
Barlow returned from the Japan Cup full of praise for his team but mindful that they still had a lot of work to do.
At the Japan Cup in Takasaki, the Aussie Spirit lost in extra innings to the USA, lost 3-0 to Japan but twice beat Canada.
“Beating Canada twice in a row was very pleasing,” Barlow said. “We gave the USA a good run and we were competitive against Japan, so there were plenty of positives.
“So there’s a lot we can be proud of, but we acknowledge that there is still more we need to do to improve.”
The Japan Cup was a great experience for the Aussie Spirit, for a number of reasons. “It’s the four best teams in the world going head to head,” Barlow said. “There are no soft games. You have to keep your foot on the pedal the whole time.”
The 2018 World Championship and Olympic qualification tournament will be held in Japan, so the Australian players gained valuable experience playing under Japanese conditions. And in the back of everyone’s minds is the fact that the 2020 Olympics will be held there.
To nobody’s surprise, Aussie Spirit captain Stacey Porter was a standout performer, hitting .444 in the tournament. Such is the respect for her that the USA intentionally walked her in the first inning.
Barlow was also impressed by Samantha Poole, who hit .400 after coming from Chicago, where she saw limited playing time in her first season as a professional with the Chicago Bandits.
“Sam was consistently good in the way she approached her at-bats, both in the Japan Cup and in the warm-up games,” he said. “All the Bandits players were eager to get back in the Australian uniform and perform well.”
Barlow was particularly pleased that so many players contributed. “We had a lot of quality performances that might not have looked anything special, but they helped the team. We were playing the best teams in the world, so there were no soft games against weak pitching. We had to chip away, get bunts down, move runners over.”
Although it has been a busy few months for the Aussie Spirit, their work for this year is not yet done. Another international tournament is planned for Japan later this year, which will give them a chance to improve even further.
“I was excited by what we saw in Takasaki,” Barlow said. “There’s a lot to like, but we’re well aware of areas we need to improve on.”