The Aussie Spirit went to North America with two aims: to win a lot of softball games and to develop players for the future.
Both boxes can now be ticked.
The Spirit finished fourth in the US World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City before moving on to Surrey, British Columbia, where they finished second in the Canada Cup. The only team with a better record was Japan, who won both tournaments having lost only one game in each.
Before heading home after the Canada Cup, Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow said he was pleased with what his team had achieved.
“One of our goals was to increase our playing depth and create competition for positions in the line-up and the team and program in general moving forward,” Barlow said.
“I’m comfortable we have done that with eight players who haven’t played in a US World Cup or Canada Cup at the start of this tour and coming away with a silver medal here in Vancouver.”
While some young players did achieve Barlow’s aim of creating competition for positions, a couple of the older brigade showed they were not ready to step aside. To nobody’s surprise, Stacey Porter was brilliant, batting an astonishing .565 in the Canada Cup and being one of the few hitters to collect multiple extra-base hits against Japan.
“Stacey is a world-class player and showed again her ability to change games with one swing of the bat,” Barlow said. “She is a critical driver of this team and not just with her on diamond performances, but her leadership qualities are outstanding as her teammates want to lift their games to match hers.”
Barlow also praised the contributions of other experienced players in the Spirit leadership group.
“Leigh Godfrey and Clare Warwick have had very good tours, showing their experience at every opportunity that presented itself. They got clutch hits, made big defensive plays and as part of our leadership group set the standard for the rest to follow.”
With an eye on the future, in particular Olympic qualification in 2018, Barlow gave some young players a chance to show what they could do against quality international opposition.
“Out of the new faces on this tour I thought Jess Torpey presented herself very well the entire trip,” he said. “She was always a tough out and got involved in some really scrappy at-bats that led to her getting hits or getting on base when we needed someone.”
With several of the Spirit squad playing professionally for the Chicago Bandits, where they receive high-level coaching and face quality opposition on a daily basis, Barlow and Softball Australia High Performance Manager Andrew Utting believe the foundation has been laid for continued improvement and a successful Olympic qualification program.
- Pictures courtesy of Sam Donkin Photography