WBSC‎ > ‎

Men’s Softball World Championship National Team Preview

posted Jul 9, 2017, 8:53 PM by Jairy Otero

Men’s Softball World Championship National Team Preview

The 15th edition of the men’s flagship softball event will showcase more than 75 games — 56 games taking place in the round robin over the first seven days, followed by three days of playoff action.

Nations will be divided into two pools to compete in a challenging round-robin, with the top four finishers from each pool advancing to the double page playoff round. The remaining teams will compete in the placement round.

All games will be streamed live and available on a subscription basis for a one-time fee of $US 29.95 via worldsoftball.tv.


Argentina

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 8
MWC Participation: 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: 4 (2013)
Previous Finish: 8 (2015)
Current World Rank: 3

A fierce competitor and world champion (2014) in the U-19 men’s category, the Argentina Men’s National Team is looking to bring a medal home with them.

After finishing fourth at the 2013 Men’s World Championship, they won bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games. They also placed second behind New Zealand at the WBSC-sanctioned Challenge Cup in February.

Argentina’s main threat is pitching, behind the arm of Roman Godoy. The team selected by Head Coach Julio Gamarci includes a mixture of veterans and rookies, which should bring some speed on the base paths.

An increase of government funding has allowed the softball program opportunities to train more often and for longer as well as attend additional international tournaments. The country also enjoys a seamless transition from the junior to senior program.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 7:30pm against USA
8 July at 7:00pm against Canada
9 July at 12:30pm against Hong Kong
10 July at 2:00pm against South Africa
11 July at 2:00pm against India
12 July at 5:30pm against Australia
13 July at 7:00pm against Dominican Republic


Australia

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 8
MWC Participation: 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Gold (2009)
Previous Finish: 4 (2015)
Current World Rank: 5

Australian selectors have chosen a mix of youth and experience in the team for the World Championship. Jarryd Farrell, Hayden Mathews, Joshua McGovern, Ryan Merriman, Brendan O’Byrne, Liam O’Leary and Lewis Weldon are all newcomers to the team, but Head Coach Laing Harrow does not expect the rookies to be overwhelmed by the occasion.

“They went to the Challenge Cup in Auckland and handled themselves well against quality opposition like New Zealand and Argentina,” Harrow says. “That experience was massive for us and will do them the world of good. It won’t be as daunting when they face those teams in Whitehorse.”

Harrow believes the Steelers have a genuine chance of causing a major upset this year. “We are aiming to win the whole thing,” he says. “That’s what the guys are preparing for. Teams like Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and Japan are going to be hard to beat, and we’ll have to be on top of our game against them.”

Pitching will continue to be one of Australia’s biggest strengths, with Adam Folkard and Andrew Kirkpatrick leading the way, but their defense and hitting should not be overlooked.

Harrow believes the newcomers will benefit from the guidance of experienced players such as Adam Folkard and Andrew Kirkpatrick, as well as Nick Shailes, originally from Lismore, Australia but who has lived in Canada in recent years.

Kirkpatrick will captain the Aussie Steelers, with Shailes confirmed as Vice-Captain. Kirkpatrick is playing in what will be his fifth world championship. In doing so, he will equal the record for the Aussie Steelers, joining the legendary Hall of Famer Mike Harrow on this mark. Shailes will provide excellent support to Kirkpatrick, playing in what will be his fourth world championship for the Aussie Steelers.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 1:00pm against India
8 July at 4:30pm against USA
9 July at 3:00pm against South Africa
10 July at 7:00pm against Dominican Republic
11 July at 7:00pm against Canada
12 July at 5:30pm against Argentina
13 July at 12:30pm against Hong Kong


Botswana

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 6
MWC Participation: 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009
Highest Finish: 9 (2000)
Previous Finish: 13 (2009)
Current World Rank: 19

The road to Whitehorse included two three-game friendly series against South Africa. Botswana’s head coach, Pako Maforaga said he was happy with the results. “We just wanted to gauge how ready we are for the World Championship, and not necessarily to get results. We were trying different combinations and different batting orders to check the player’s mental strength.

Maforaga commented that the games gave him a rough idea of the players he has, adding that expectations were that they would continue to prepare for the competition using local clubs as opponents.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 9:00am against Great Britain
8 July at 2:00pm against Japan
9 July at 2:00pm against Denmark
10 July at 12:30pm against Turkey
11 July at 12:30pm against Czech Republic
12 July at 10:00am against Venezuela
13 July at 11:30am against New Zealand


Canada

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 14
MWC Participation: 1966, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Gold (1972, 1976, 1992, 2015)
Previous Finish: Gold (2015)
Current World Rank: 4

Canada joins Japan, New Zealand, and USA as one of four teams to have participated in every men’s world championship. They are the current reigning world champions and are looking to repeat again on home soil.

In 2015 in Saskatoon, Canada beat New Zealand 10-5 in the championship game, rallying from a 5-0 deficit in the process. Outfielder Steve Mullaley belted three home runs — including a grand slam — to key the comeback.

Canada would go on to win the Pan Am Games gold medal later that summer two years ago, beating Venezuela 2-1 to decide top spot on the podium.

Mullaley is among the 11 returnees from the 2015 worlds team on Jon Stuart’s 17-man roster for Whitehorse, along with third baseman Derek Mayson, catcher Bryan Abrey and shortstop Kevin Schellenberg. Newcomers include utility men Blake Hunter and Kris Walushka.

In their final tune-up before Whitehorse, Canada defeated World’s No. 1 New Zealand 10-3 to win the Vancouver Challenge with an undefeated record.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 7:30pm against South Africa
8 July at 7:00pm against Argentina
9 July at 7:00pm against USA
10 July at 4:30pm against Hong Kong
11 July at 7:00pm against Australia
12 July at 7:00pm against Dominican Republic
13 July at 3:00pm against India


Czech Republic

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 7
MWC Participation: 1992 (as Czechoslovakia), 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: 6 (2000)
Previous Finish: 7 (2015)
Current World Rank: 8

Czech Republic set a goal to improve on their result from Saskatoon (7th place) and finish in at least sixth place.

As a small country, they can practice together often and all the players on their roster play in the men’s national league (8 teams play always a home and away double-header against each team, plus a double-header against the junior national team).

Czech Republic finished in fifth place at the WBSC-sanctioned Challenge Cup in New Zealand in February.  They also gave New Zealand their only loss in round robin play at the Vancouver Challenge held in Canada last weekend.

The core of the team is solid, with only 3 rookie players. The biggest threat from Czech Republic comes at the plate. Their batting should be feared by all. But Beto Guerrinieri also came over to work with the pitchers, which is great help not only for the national team, but for Czech Softball in general.

Drawing into Pool B, the Czech’s are looking at Japan, Denmark, and Great Britain as their biggest competitors.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 12:30pm against Denmark
8 July at 5:30pm against New Zealand
9 July at 4:30pm against Venezuela
10 July at 3:00pm against Great Britain
11 July at 12:30pm against Botswana
12 July at 4:30pm against Japan
13 July at 10:00am against Turkey


Denmark

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 5
MWC Participation: 1988, 1996, 2000, 2009, 2015
Highest Finish: 11( 2009)
Previous Finish: 13 (2015)
Current World Rank: 13

Denmark finished second at the 2016 European Championship, behind Czech Republic. The team’s preparations have been good as the country’s club season is underway allowing players to remain in peak condition.

Denmark is being led by Israel and Dion Nukunuku – brothers of the New Zealand captain Nathan Nukunuku.

Head Coach Israel said, “we are a close knit team. As long as we focus one game at a time we will look to do well. All the teams are all great competition as this is what happens when you come to a tournament like this. As long as we play well is all we are looking for.”

Their goal for this year’s world championship is to perform well in every game. With relatively few injuries, the team is looking to control what they can control.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 12:30pm against Czech Republic
8 July at 3:00pm against Great Britain
9 July at 2:00pm against Botswana
10 July at 10:00am against Venezuela
11 July at 11:30am against Turkey
12 July at 3:00pm against New Zealand
13 July at 5:30pm against Japan


Dominican Republic

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 5
MWC Participation: 1966, 1980, 1984, 2000, 2015
Highest Finish: 5 (1984 and 2015)
Previous Finish: 5 (2015)
Current World Rank: 11

The Caribbean nation finished in fifth place at the last men’s world championship in 2015, but slid to sixth position at the Pan American Games later that year.

Dominican Republic has prepared for the Men’s World Championship through an early intensive camp focusing on chemistry and putting work in the overall game of softball to achieve better results as a group.

The roster contains a mixture of veteran and young talented individuals with versatility. But balance and depth in the roster is their biggest threat.

They are hoping to achieve the best possible results and to keep climbing in the WBSC Softball World Rankings.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 11:00am against Hong Kong
8 July at 10:00am against South Africa
9 July at 11:30am against India
10 July at 7:00pm against Australia
11 July at 5:30pm against USA
12 July at 7:00pm against Canada
13 July at 7:00pm against Argentina


Great Britain

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 4
MWC Participation: 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: 8 (2009)
Previous Finish: 11 (2015)
Current World Rank: 10

The full British squad has had a very short time before the World Championship to play as a team as there as numerous overseas-based players.

One of their greatest strengths is in their pitching with two flamethrowers capable of shutting down any team in the competition.

Head Coach Kevin Stockford aims to provide the young and upcoming talent with exposure to the highest level of softball to encourage growth in the local competition and work towards a Top 3 finish at the next European Championship.

Stockford said, “I’m excited to see what our new players have to offer the team. And all I can ask is that they take this experience on board and grow with it.”

Playing in Pool B, every game is important to them, as their team contains a large number of rookies. However, big games include other European teams – Denmark and the Czech Republic — followed by Botswana.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 9:00am against Botswana
8 July at 3:00pm against Denmark
9 July at 5:30pm against New Zealand
10 July at 3:00pm against Czech Republic
11 July at 4:30pm against Japan
12 July at 2:00pm against Turkey
13 July at 2:00pm against Venezuela


Hong Kong

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 4
MWC Participation: 1972, 1984, 1992, 2004
Highest Finish: 10 (1972)
Previous Finish: 15 (2004)
Current World Rank: NR

Hong Kong will return to the world stage after a 13-year hiatus. Competing in Pool A, the Asian nation looks to break into a Top 10 finish and play competitive games against the world’s top teams.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 11:00am against Dominican Republic
8 July at 12:30pm against India
9 July at 12:30pm against Argentina
10 July at 4:30pm against Canada
11 July at 10:00am against South Africa
12 July at 11:30am against USA
13 July at 12:30pm against Australia


India

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: This is India’s first softball world championship
MWC Participation: n/a
Highest Finish: n/a
Previous Finish: n/a
Current World Rank: NR

This is the first time India will play in a world championship and they are aiming to perform well among all the developed countries.

National team players were selected through the Senior National Softball Championship, in addition to three special coaching camps held in the last three months at different places in India.  The players are physically fit and have been playing softball in the different national level championships, gaining more and more playing experience.

India is looking forward to a good experience playing with different good teams and hope to further gain high level experience in the future.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 1:00pm against Australia
8 July at 12:30pm against Hong Kong
9 July at 11:30am against Dominican Republic
10 July at 11:30am against USA
11 July at 2:00pm against Argentina
12 July at 12:30pm against South Africa
13 July at 3:00pm against Canada


Japan

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 14
MWC Participation: 1966, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Silver (2000)
Previous Finish: 6 (2015)
Current World Rank: 2

Japan joins Canada, New Zealand, and USA as one of four teams to have participated in every men’s world championship. Though the Women’s program has won multiple world championships, the Men’s National Team is aiming to be World champions for the first time.

The Japan National Team is a well-balanced team blend of defense and offence.

After placing third in the WBSC-sanctioned Challenge Cup in February, an intensive camp in June in Japan, and with the Men’s League in Japan in season now, the team will show up in great physical condition for the long competition schedule.

They see every team as their competitors and are not overlooking anyone on their road to Gold.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 2:30pm against Venezuela
8 July at 2:00pm against Botswana
9 July at 10:00am against Turkey
10 July at 5:30pm against New Zealand
11 July at 4:30pm against Great Britain
12 July at 4:30pm against Czech Republic
13 July at 5:30pm against Denmark


New Zealand

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 14
MWC Participation: 1966, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Gold (1976, 1984, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2013)
Previous Finish: 2 (2015)
Current World Rank: 1

New Zealand joins Canada, Japan, and USA as one of four teams who have participated in every men’s world championship. After experiencing a second-place finish to Canada at the World Championship in 2015, the Black Sox are aiming to stand atop the podium once again.

New Zealand won the WBSC-sanctioned Challenge Cup in February, suffering their only loss to Japan. In the team’s final warm-up before Whitehorse, they performed well at the Vancouver Challenge finishing in second place behind World Champions Canada.

Head Coach Mark Sorensen said that “2015 was the most competitive world championship that I have ever experienced. The standard across the board is very high… [Softball] is not a complicated game. It’s about putting goose eggs on the [opponent’s] scoreboard and making sure we put digits up on our run column.”

The World No. 1 team is looking to control the controllable with a consistent approach of each team members playing for and supporting each other. The team features the return of 10 players from the 2015 championship.

The Black Sox are not concentrating solely on any particular opponent. They have prepared a different strategy for each team and are looking to rely on their hitting and pitching to advance through the championship rounds.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 10:30am against Turkey
8 July at 5:30pm against Czech Republic
9 July at 5:30pm against Great Britain
10 July at 5:30pm against Japan
11 July at 3:00pm against Venezuela
12 July at 3:00pm against Denmark
13 July at 11:30am against Botswana


South Africa

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 8
MWC Participation: 1968, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013
Highest Finish: 7 (1976)
Previous Finish: 12 (2013)
Current World Rank: 14

Softball South Africa, led by President Mashilo Matsetela, has coined a new vision to see the senior national team improve over a period of time at the World Championships. The national team participating in this year’s Men’s World Championship is a combination of the future and experienced players, however most are rookies.

Though the road to Whitehorse only contained two friendly series against Botswana, they were able to polish their game in defense and improve with each game.

Head Coach Dau Fortius said, “We are taking every game with the same approach due to limited experience at international competition. It’s time to be counted, we are coming to make a mark, gain the experience and build a team for the future. However, their greatest strength is the ability to put everything at risk in how we approach the game. We are fearless in tactics and strategy.”

South Africa aims to gain more experience for the players and improve their overall world rankings. They want to make their presence felt and are looking to upset a few dominant/favorite teams.

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 7:30pm against Canada
8 July at 10:00 against Dominican Republic
9 July at 3:00pm against Australia
10 July at 2:00pm against Argentina
11 July at 10:00am against Hong Kong
12 July at 12:30pm against India
13 July at 4:30pm against USA


Turkey

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: This is Turkey’s first softball world championship
MWC Participation: n/a
Highest Finish: n/a
Previous Finish: n/a
Current World Rank: NR

Making their first appearance on the world stage, not much is known about Turkey. Taking advantage of the open entry system, Turkey has jumped straight to the world stage; they have not yet been tested at the regional level.

The team, led by Head Coach Thomas McDermott, will earn their first softball world rankings point in the country’s history.

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 10:30am against New Zealand
8 July at 11:30am against Venezuela
9 July at 10:00am against Japan
10 July at 12:30pm against Botswana
11 July at 11:30am against Denmark
12 July at 2:00pm against Great Britain
13 July at 10:00am against Czech Republic


United States

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 14
MWC Participation: 1966, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Gold (1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1988)
Previous Finish: 9 (2015)
Current World Rank: 6

USA joins Canada, Japan, and New Zealand, as one of four teams to have participated in every men’s world championship. Their goal is always the same: to play well, represent USA well on and off the diamond, and get to stand on the podium at the end of the tournament to hear their National Anthem.

The 2017 roster is filled with solid pitching, very good defense, power, and maybe their greatest strength of speed.

Head Coach Denny Bruckert said, “We feel like our preparation is much better than 2015 in that we will have more time together leading up to the WBSC World Championship.  The competition we have had among ourselves is the greatest thing that could happen for us. We’ve got 20 players fighting for 17 rosters spots…It’s not going to be easy for any of us to trim this down as all deserve to make the team!

“I’m certainly not overlooking any team, but as always it starts with the defending champions Canada.  That team certainly has it all. Any fan or player knows that New Zealand is powerful and certainly a hitting machine. Australia has that great pitching with the best one/two punch there is. Argentina is right there with Australia with the great pitching! Venezuela has it all – a great righty/lefty pitching, great defense, and very dangerous hitters. Japan is loaded in all aspects of the game and they never beat themselves on the defensive end. The Dominican Republic is really scary and dangerous at all times! The Czech Republic is probably the most improved team over the last few years so much respect goes out to them. Denmark has veterans and veteran pitching that better scare you or you will end up on the short end! Great Britain challenges you and they know how to play the game! South Africa and Botswana are improving and have great athletes!”

Matt Palazzo, team captain for the past seven years feels that this “is the strongest team I have been a part of without a doubt.  We have a strong pitching rotation along with guys 1-9 that can hit the top pitching.  But I believe our greatest strength is our mental toughness. We are very excited and our team knows we can win GOLD. Our coaching staff did an excellent job putting this roster together.”

Round Robin schedule (Pool A):
7 July at 7:30pm against Argentina
8 July at 4:30pm against Australia
9 July at 7:00pm against Canada
10 July at 11:30am against India
11 July at 5:30pm against Dominican Republic
12 July at 11:30am against Hong Kong
13 July at 4:30pm against South Africa


Venezuela

Roster

History:
MWC Appearances: 7
MWC Participation: 1966, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Silver (2013)
Previous Finish: Bronze (2015)
Current World Rank: 7

Venezuela is looking to capitalize on their bronze medal at the 2015 Men’s World Championship and silver medal from the Pan American Games.

Though the national team has not had many opportunities to train as a team, all have been playing throughout the year for their club teams. Even with top pitcher Ramon Jones not attending due to a knee injury, Venezuela will still have a well-rounded pitching staff.

Head Coach Luis Russo said, “We have done anything in our power to prepare this team really well. As with everybody else, getting to the final day is our goal.  The passion these guys have for the game will make the difference. We see our main competitors to be Canada, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia, but everybody enters with the same opportunities.”

Round Robin schedule (Pool B):
7 July at 2:30pm against Japan
8 July at 11:30am against Turkey
9 July at 4:30pm against Czech Republic
10 July at 10:00am against Denmark
11 July at 3:00pm against New Zealand
12 July at 10:00am against Botswana
13 July at 2:00pm against Great Britain

Comments