Japan sounded the early warnings that they will be the team to beat here in the U15 Women’s Softball Asia Cup which at the Fu-Hsing Softball Stadium in Puli Township, Nantou, Chinese Taipei, when they disposed of Singapore 14-0 (run ahead rule after 4 innings).
Japan fresh from their invitational Utsugi Cup, played past weekend in Takasaki, where World No. 1 USA topped No. 2 Japan, 1-0 in extra innings, to wrest the title, certainly have come well prepared.
Six U-15 National Teams from four continents participated in the weekend event at Takasaki City Softball Field, Utsugi Stadium in Takasaki City, Gunma where in addition to USA and Japan, No.6 Mexico, No.8 Italy, No.11 China and Tanzania also participated.
For the bronze medal game, Mexico defeated China, 2-1. USA, Japan, Mexico and Italy have already qualified for the U15 World Cup.
“Having qualified for the World Cup, we are here as part of preparation for the tournament proper we will be hosting from 21-29 October in Tokyo, Japan,” said Japan’s head coach Yu Yamamoto.
“We have started well with an opening victory over Singapore and we intend to improve further and make the final to try and wrest the title.
“The team has come well prepared, but we will not treat any opponent lightly, especially host Chinese Taipei, Korea and Philippines. Every team is here hoping for a podium finish, and we have to be at our very best in every game no matter who our opponents are.”
Japan indeed started clinically with 8 hits and no errors, while Singapore had no hits and 4 errors.
Japan next play India tomorrow morning before taking on a tougher opponent in Philippines in the afternoon.
Philippines on the other hand, looking forward to qualifying for their third category in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Cup series, started on a bright note defeating India 6-0 in their opening match in the morning.
Philippines together with host Chinese Taipei have earlier qualified for the respective World Cup from the Asia Cup for Women’s Softball held in Incheon, Korea and Co-Ed Slow Pitch at Pattaya, Thailand and this is the third World Cup they are aiming to qualify.
Japan too, have qualified for both the above tournaments, but have an automatic berth for the World Cup, thus leaving the two spots from the Puli tournament, to be battled out among the six other teams competing here.
The other teams competing in this Puli township are Hong Kong China, India, Korea and Singapore.
This morning playing under cloudy conditions and cool weather of 24 degrees celcius, India as much as they tried, had no chance against the well oiled Philippines team who are combination of players from two districts – Bulacan and Pasay – and private schools, and one month training under their belt, took and early 4 run lead in the first inning batting bottom.
India were letdown by their small sized physique and poor fielding and only managed one hit in the game two errors, while Philippines had five hits and one error.
However, Indian coach, Parekhe Savita, was pleased with his team who has 18 days training before coming for the tournament.
“We do not have the facilities and enough competition. I had many times gone onto the pitch to play with them to give some added competition and first hand coaching,” said Savita.
“Under the circumstances, I think they have done well. In fact, we could have performed had we our two better players who had to be left behind because of passport issues.”
Savita also said his players were intimated by the stadium atmosphere which was all alien to them and were awed by the occasion and showed jitteriness.
India went down in their second game of the day to Hong Kong but narrowly 1-2.
Philippines’ head coach Annalyn Ebreo said they could not have had better start.
“It is our opening game and a win is a win. The team did enough for the victory and I am confident that we will improve as we progress in the tournament,” said Ebreo.
“It our aim here to qualify for the inaugural U15 World Cup in Japan and Japan having qualified for the World Cup, we will be fighting for the two other slots.”
Another coach Marical Cabalda said while they expect Japan to emerge tops here, she believes host Chinese Taipei and Korea will be the two strong opponents they have to at least beat one of them to make the cut for the World Cup.And Philippines got a tremendous boost for their ambition when they downed one of their feared teams – Korea – narrowly 2-1, after Korea leveled 1-1 in the top of fifth inning.
Philippines had taken the solitary run lead in the second inning.
While Philippines were in jubilation, Korea now have to pick up the pieces and try to bounce back in the tournament.
A similar situation in Women’s Softball Asia Cup in April in Incheon saw Philippines beat host Korea 2-0 and book a World Cup qualifying Group berth and deny Korea the berth.
The win has certainly paved the way for Philippines ambition to finish among top three with probably host Chinese Taipei standing on their way.
Philippines remaining games are against high flying Japan tomorrow, Chinese Taipei on Thursday and finally against Hong Kong and Singapore on Friday.
It is indeed a tough day tomorrow for Philippines in their do or die mission,
9.00am Philippines 6 India 0
10.30am Japan 14 Singapore 0 (Run ahead win after 4 innings. The U15 plays a total of 5 innings)
12.00 pm Hong Kong 2 India 1
1.30pm Philippines 2 Korea 1
4.00pm Chinese Taipei Singapore
TOMORROW’S FIXTURES (JUNE 14 – WEDNESDAY)
9.00am Japan v India
10.30am Korea v Hongkong
12.00pm India v Chinese Taipei
1.30pm Singapore v Hong Kong
3.00pm Philippines v Japan
4.30pm Chinese Taipei v Korea