Australia’s best young male softball players are ready to take on the world at the Under-19 World Championship, which starts today in Midland, Michigan.
The Junior Steelers have had a solid preparation, with a tournament in Milverton, Ontario used as a warm-up event before crossing the border into Midland.
In Milverton, the Junior Steelers compiled an 11-10 win-loss record, with one game drawn.
“It was a tough tour in Milverton, with lots of travel involved, ” Head Coach Laing Harrow said.
“But we got good-quality games against good-quality pitchers. It was just what we were after, just what we needed to get ready.”
Soon after arriving in Midland the Australians were told that their scheduled opponents in the first game, Venezuela, would not be participating in the tournament.
“We were a bit disappointed by that, but we’ll have a solid training run instead and we’ll be ready to go against Argentina (on Tuesday morning AEST),” Harrow said.
As the two-time defending world champions, Argentina are again expected to be the benchmark. “We’ll need to bring our top-quality game and see how we go,” said Harrow, who nominated New Zealand and Japan as other teams likely to be hardest to beat.
Harrow said his team would go into the tournament in top shape, thanks to team physio Aminda Huynh, who took care of some injury concerns in Milverton.
Despite the quality of the opposition, Harrow said his team wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than winning. “We’re here to win and the guys believe we can win,” he said. “We’ll be disappointed if we don’t win.”
Harrow will look to his team leaders, Josh McGovern, Alex Cleary and Luke Ollerenshaw, to set the tone. But he also has high hopes for West Australian Jett Wright, who hit eight home runs in Milverton and seems to be in top form at the right time.
“But I’ve told the guys it won’t be up to three or four players,” Harrow said. “If we’re going to achieve the success we want to achieve, it will take 17 players to make a contribution.”