Australia will face some mystery opponents as well as some familiar foes when they head to the USA for the Junior Women’s Softball World Championship next month.
This year’s event, to be held in Clearwater, Florida, will feature a record 26 teams, compared with only 15 at the previous event in 2015.
In the first round of games, the Junior Spirit will have to face the might of Japan, the second-ranked team in the world at Under-19 level.
While that game will undoubtedly be a huge challenge, Junior Spirit Head Coach Kerrie Porter says some of the other teams in Pool B could cause problems of a different nature. The Bahamas, Israel and Peru are among the opponents, and Porter admits to knowing very little about any of them.
“We’ll have to play it by ear against these teams,” she says. “We’ll watch them over the first couple of days and try to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses.”
Israel and the Bahamas play each other on the first day of the tournament, which should give the Australian coaching staff a chance to evaluate them.
In a busy lead-up to the tournament, the Junior Spirit players will gather in Sydney on July 10 for a training camp, before leaving for Florida on July 14. “We’ll be coming out of our winter, so the girls will need to make adjustments when we land in Florida in summer,” Porter says.
From July 16-23 the players will train and play practice games against Japan, the Netherlands and Italy, with other games still to be confirmed.
Also planned is a cross-Florida trip to watch the Chicago Bandits, who have seven Australian players on their roster, when they take on the USSA Pride in the National Fastpitch Pro League. “It will be a great opportunity for our girls to see the professional players up close,” Porter says.
Not surprisingly, Porter expects Japan to be Australia’s toughest opponent in Pool B. “They will be well drilled, disciplined, with good pitching and plenty of options on offence,” she says.
But with only two teams in each pool progressing to the next round, Porter knows that no team can be taken lightly. The Netherlands, for example, could be a danger team. “They are coached by Saskia Kosterink, who played for Western Australia in the Gilley’s Shield. “She is a good coach and will know our players, so we have to be on our game against them.”
The 26 nations in the XII WBSC Junior Women’s Softball World Championship have been drawn into four pools and will play a round-robin to begin the tournament.
Pool A: Chinese Taipei, Guatemala, Italy, Philippines, Turkey, South Africa, USA
Pool B: Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Peru
Pool C: Argentina, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, India, New Zealand, Puerto Rico
Pool D: Canada, China, Great Britain, Ireland, Korea, Mexico
The official tournament schedule features a total of 99 games, which will be played over seven days. The USA are the defending Under 19 world champions.
The world championship will also have web-streaming and play-by-play available via the tournament website.
2017 Junior Spirit Team
|Kelsey Griffen, NSW||Rhiannon Kemp, Qld||Tarni Stepto, NSW|
|Natasha Holt, Vic||Kandra Lamb, NSW||Maddison Schofield, WA|
|Amber Hood, SA||Jamie Mead, SA||Brianna Trim, NSW|
|Georgia Hood, SA||Gabrielle Plain, NSW||Tia Waters, Qld|
|Montana Kearnes, NSW||Sara Riou, WA||Tamieka Whitefield, Qld|
|Shannon Keevers, NSW||Maddison Smith, NSW|