Head coach Fabian Barlow introduces the Aussie Spirit team that will compete at the 2016 Women’s World Softball Championship in Canada.
The team will travel to Oklahoma City for the World Cup of Softball, with the first game on 5 July. From there, they fly to Vancouver for the Women’s World Softball Championship, to be held in nearby Surrey, British Columbia.
STACEY PORTER (captain)
For a long period of time, Stacey has been regarded as one of the most powerful hitters in the world. She has been a really dominant player for the Aussie Spirit for many years. She plays professionally in Japan and brings a lot of that discipline and experience back into the Spirit group. One of the key things she does is brings out better performances from her teammates. It’s like having an extra coach because she’s so well respected among the players and will follow her lead.
CLARE WARWICK (vice-captain)
Clare is a really high-quality player who has played multiple positions and who has been a critical member of this team for a long time because of her versatility, work ethic and the passion she brings to each training and game. She’s a silent achiever; doesn’t say a lot, but when she does say something, everyone sits up and listens. She’s a real leader and leads from the front performance-wise, effort-wise and has a terrific team-first approach.
Belinda is a quality international catcher with a reputation for throwing base runners out. She made the decision to play professionally in the Netherlands this year to help her prepare for the World Championship and I’m sure she will see the benefits of that on the tour. She is an experienced campaigner in this team and that experience will be valuable at the Championship.
Chelsea has been a long-time member of the team. She’s currently playing in the National Pro Fastpitch league in America for the Dallas Charge. She has played several positions since making the Aussie Spirit team and always played them to a high international level. Chelsea will play first base in Vancouver. She’s very well respected within the Spirit group and from teams around the world.
BRENDA DE BLAES
Originally from Belgium, Brenda is a strong hitter who hits the ball hard to all parts of the field. She has a unique batting style that she’s made work for herself very well over the years and is always a threat to put the ball over the fence. Bren brings a wealth of experience at the international level and will be an important playing member on the tour.
Shortstop, second base
Stacey can play second base and shortstop and does both to a very high level. A hard-grinding player who makes very few mistakes and always makes the right decision on a play. She does all the little things really well in the batter’s box and consistently puts up tough, quality at-bats.
The youngest member of the team who has just come out of the Under-19 system having played in the 2015 Junior World Championship. She has a big future ahead of her and can play both sides of the game very well. Following the World Championship, Georgia will be starting her college career at San Jose State. Georgia has also represented her country in baseball, having been in the Australian women’s team as a pitcher.
Jade is a very strong player with above-average hitting power. Once Jade fully understands just how powerful she is and what a power-hitting threat she brings to the plate, her offensive game will really blossom. She has worked her way through a couple of injuries over the past 12 to 18 months and has worked very hard to put herself in a position to be selected and perform well.
Erin went to the 2014 World Championship after being called in as a reserve and that experience will be valuable for her and the group. She hit a bottom of the eighth walk-off grand slam in the Red Terriers Series that reconfirmed what she is capable of doing with her hitting power and showed that she can win a game with one swing.
Janice came into the team as an injury replacement for Leigh Godfrey. She was very close to being selected in the original 17 and is by far the quickest player we have in our team. Her speed will allow us to mix power with base-running speed and provide offensive options.
Rachel was in the last World Championship team and has just completed her second year at college. Those experiences will be helpful for her and the team as a whole. A very powerful hitter who plays multiple positions and has a strong arm, she’s someone who has the potential to be in this team for a long time. She’s a key player for this program now and moving forward.
Taylah has just started her professional career over in the USA and will benefit greatly from that experience and exposure. A really strong utility player who can play infield, outfield and catch. She’s a smart player who makes the right decision a majority of the time. Taylah is still relatively new into the international arena and I believe will just get better and better with every opportunity she gets.
Carmelle is returning to the Australian team after being unavailable for a period of time and is a great addition back into the program. She is a strong overall athlete who has a terrific work ethic and very solid catching skills that will get the best out of our pitching staff. Her left-handed hitting power is a real plus for our offence.
We anticipate Justine will be one of the hardest throwing pitchers at the Worlds in Vancouver. Justine played in the 2008 Olympics as the youngster in the team and she will bring that Olympic and international experience into the team along with a real competitive spirit that will be infectious around the group.
Vanessa will be returning to the Dallas Charge for her second season in the National Pro Fastpitch league. Vanessa has also pitched in the Japanese pro league so she brings some really good international experience to the team. She’s a very established pitcher but I think there’s still a lot of room for her to get even better, which is exciting for her and this program.
Kaia is a left-handed pitcher who has pitched some big games for the Aussie Spirit over the last couple of years. She has spent the last few years competing in the Japanese Pro League and is one of the best in the world on her day. Her composure and calmness in pressure situations provides confidence to the playing group around her and her leadership in this area will be important throughout the World Championship campaign.
Jocelyn has a pretty unique preparation due to her being based on Thursday Island pitching on sand and with her husband doing the catching. She has been around a long time and provides some more valuable experience into the pitching group and team in general.
SANDRA HOLDEN (reserve)
Sandra has been selected as a travelling reserve. She had a baby (Emma) in September and put in the work to return for the Gilley’s Shield and put herself in the frame for selection. Sandra’s pitching strength is her ability to change speeds at any time in the count and is a real competitor. To return from having a baby so quickly and taking on the travelling reserve role with her husband and bub shows the character of Sandy and her commitment to the team.