On the eve of being reinstated into the Summer Olympics, Australia is set to take on world number 1, Japan, and the New Zealand White Sox in a world class women’s softball tournament at Blacktown International Sportspark in NSW. The International Down Under Series will be a double round-robin tournament held 5-7 February with a championship final played on Sunday 7 February.
The Japanese are in Blacktown to hold a pre-season training camp, while all three countries are preparing for the 2016 Women’s World Softball Championship that will be held in Vancouver, Canada in July. The Australian team will be split into Green and Gold in this tournament to give head coach, Fabian Barlow, a good look at as many prospects for the team as possible.
This is the first time the Japanese national women’s team has held their training camp in Australia. The Blacktown venue was the host venue for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Softball tournament. It brings back found memories for Japan National Head Coach, Reika Utsugi. “The diamonds remind me of my good days in playing. I played in the 2000 Olympics and scored a home run on this diamond. Very memorable.” On coming to Australia for their training camp, coach Utsugi said “The weather is very good, comfortable situation and looking forward to the series. We have a young team, and have come here as it is winter in Japan. This is an important step in preparation as it is our off-season. Looking forward to the challenge for the young side.”
The Australian side is captained by international softball superstar, Stacey Porter. Stacey has experience playing the Japanese as she plays professionally in Japan and this year will also play in the US Women’s Professional league. Pitcher, Kaia Parnaby, also plays softball in Japan and faces stiff competition to make the Aussie Spirit team that will travel to North America in July for the World Cup of Softball and the World Championship.
The Aussie women will have a second opportunity to impress coach Barlow 19-21 February when they host the world number 1 professional women’s team, Toyota Japan Red Terriers, at Blacktown. This will mark the second consecutive year the Red Terriers have held their training camp in Australia. They bring not only five members of the Japan national team but also two American imports with them: Olympians – the world’s best female pitcher, Monica Abbott (pitches clocked at 120km) and infielder, Natasha Watley.
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