Defending champion Japan did not mince their words when they declared they are here in Incheon, Korea, to retain the Women Softball Asia Cup 2023 at the Songdo LNG Stadium which ends on Saturday.
Japan’s head coach Reika Utsugi said that she was happy with the progress of the team in the competition and sees no problem in reaching the final but retaining the title.
Japan opened their campaign on Sunday with a 11-0 win over Thailand and today thrashed Singapore 22-0 before chalking their third consecutive win, 4-0 over China.
The match between Japan and China, saw both teams playing cat and mouse game in not fielding their best players for the full duration and constantly making changes to their batting lineup.
But Japan did enough to edge China, in what looked a close encounter.
It was obvious that both teams were saving the best for a possible encounter in the semifinals or final.
Japan’s remaining matches are against India and Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong and Korea on Wednesday and Philippines on Thursday.
“Chinese Taipei and China look like the two teams who might give a tough encounter but we are well prepared for them,” said Utsugi in the morning after the match against Singapore.
With China out of the way, the match against Chinese Taipei tomorrow will be like another team they could encounter in the semifinal or final.
The Japanese team who won the Tokyo Olympics gold medal, have come here with four members of the victorious team – pitcher Miu Goto, catcher Haruka Agatsuma, infielders Hitomi Kawabata and Minori Naito.
A fifth member of the glorious Olympic team is Eri Yamada, the assistant coach to Utsugi.
“We maybe a relatively a new team with just four members of the Olympics team with us, but we are well prepared and a team capable of producing results. We are here to win the title and play in the World Cup,” declared Utusugi.
Yamada agreed with Utusugi. “We may have just four players from the victorious Olympic team, but this our team for the future and have been well prepared.
“I have played for the Japanese for more than two decades and I should know the strength of the team. This is a formidable team who are more than capable of performing to attain creditable results,” said the 39-year who played for Japan until the end of last before being appointed in the coaching team.
Host Korea suffered their second consecutive loss when they went down to Chinese Taipei 1-12, to further make their path to finish fourth to book the wild card – the fourth spot for Asia for the XVII WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup next July in Europe.
Earlier on Sunday, Korea after having started on the right foot with an opening 10-0 win over Thailand, they had lost to Philippines 0-2 narrowly, which was the root of their qualification problem.
Korea kept their World Cup berth hope alive, when they beat Hong Kong 15-0 later in the evening today.
Their remaining matches in the round robin format are against China and India tomorrow, and Singapore and Japan on Thursday.
Singapore chalked their first victory in the afternoon when they defeated India 3-1 in closely contested bottom placed teams match.
India remain winless after three outings.
Philippines lost their first match in four outings this evening, when they went down to Chinese Taipei 0-5, whom they had also lost in the third placing match at the last championship held in Jakarta in 2019.
Philippines who have wins against Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand will playing their remaining matches against Singapore and China tomorrow, India on Wednesday and complete their round robin fixtures on Thursday against Japan.
While early indications are that Japan, China and Chinese Taipei look set to book their place among the last four, the fourth spot looks like a battle between Philippines and host Korea.
The top four teams will qualify for the XVII WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup next July in Europe from this Women’s Softball Asia Cup 2023.
The competition moves to Day 3 tomorrow, which will see another eight matches played in the tournament’s round robin format for the nine teams competing.
The top four teams in the standings advance to the semifinals (first place vs fourth place; second place vs third place) on April 7. The bronze medal game, will be played on April 8 at 8:30 local time, while the final is scheduled at 11:00. There will also be placement matches for rankings from 9th to 5th.
Japan 22 Singapore 0
Chinese Taipei 12 Korea 1
China 5 Hong Kong 0
Philippines 10 Thailand 0
India 1 Singapore 3
Korea 15 Hong Kong 0
Japan 4 China 0
Philippines 0 Chinese Taipei 5