At this point in the Major League Baseball season, some fans are ready to be done with the season and move onto 2019. Others, meanwhile, are slowly gearing up for the October postseason and the thrilling games that come with that.
For those that want to feel the excitement of playoff ball pre October, look no further than the Women’s Baseball World Cup.
The tournament is currently taking place in Viera, Florida, and features a strong U.S. squad. This is the first time the U.S. has hosted this tournament. Team USA will hope to take home the tournament crown on home soil and become the first U.S. team to win the World Cup since 2006.
Here are five things you may not know about Team USA.1. Many of the women have overcome a lot of obstacles to make the national team
For several of the U.S. women to get to this point, they had to overcome various challenges. The U.S. has not been as welcoming to females playing baseball as some of the other competing countries. Many of the women have played on all-boys teams or been told that they are not welcome.
“When I tell people I play baseball, the first thing they try to do is correct me,” Team USA infielder Malaika Underwood told SB Nation. “‘You mean softball?’ ‘No, no, baseball — the same sport as the guys.’”
The women have found their way to the international stage, however, thanks in part to the help of USA Baseball camps specifically for women. They are part of an effort to make it more acceptable for women to play baseball. Major League Baseball has also helped out by promoting this year’s tournament and is in the process of planning a girls' baseball tournament for 2019, according to SB Nation.
2. The U.S. roster features a wide variety of players
The ages of players on Team USA ranges from 17 to 44 years old. Ashton Lansdell is the youngest player on the U.S. roster at 17. There are also four players — Tamara Holmes, Meggie Meidlinger, Marti Sementelli and Underwood — who all won a world championship with Team USA in 2006.
One of the younger players to watch in the tournament will be U.S. shortstop Jade Gortarez. The 20-year-old turned heads in exhibition games when she hit two doubles and a home run in a span of three games.
3. Team USA is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 tournament
The last Women’s World Cup took place in 2016 and was not a successful one for Team USA. While the Americans came in with high expectations, Team USA was knocked out in the preliminary round after going 2-1. It was a disappointment for a U.S. team that finished with a silver medal at the 2014 tournament.
Aside from Gortarez, a player who will be key to Team USA going further in this year’s tournament will be right-handed pitcher Stacy Piagno. She’s a pitcher who finds success with a strong fastball.
4. Japan comes in as the odds on favorite
For years now, Japan has come into this tournament as the unanimous favorite. The Japanese have won the past five World Cups going back to 2008. Their lone loss in that stretch came in the preliminary round of the 2012 tournament to the U.S.
Besides winning nearly all of its games, Japan has done so in dominant fashion. In the past three gold-medal games, the Japanese have not allowed a single run.
Team USA is the last team not named Japan to win a World Cup, which it did back in 2006. Since then, the U.S. has finished as runner-up three different times (2010, 2012, 2014).
5. Team USA dominated its first two games of tournament play
It’s been a near-perfect start for the U.S. as it plays in front of the hometown fans. Team USA opened play with a 14-0 win over Puerto Rico last Wednesday. The bats were out early for the U.S. as it jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Piagno was dominant and pitched a five-inning shutout while allowing just four hits.
It was a similar story for Team USA in Game No. 2 as the Americans defeated the Netherlands 18-0 on Thursday. The U.S. got off to another strong start with a seven-run first inning. Four different American players had multi-hit games including Megan Baltzell, who had a pair of RBI doubles in the win.
The combination of potent offense and strong pitching has Team USA looking like a legitimate threat to knock of Japan in this year’s tournament. It would be a historic moment for the U.S. and one it can enjoy on home soil.
Pool play wrapped up on Sunday Aug. 26, and the gold-medal game is scheduled for Aug. 31.
From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson
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