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II IBAF 15U Baseball World Cup Summary


The II IBAF 15U Baseball World Cup took place in Mexico from July 31 to August 10, 2014. Team Japan failed to reach the finals after losing to the USA and Panama in the first round. Japan beat Germany in the first round, and took all four games in the second round to capture 7th place.

After all the dust had settled, Samurai Japan head coach Yoshitaka Katori reviewed the series.

"They were all outstanding games, but we really saw some significant growth in individual players. Because we didn't choose our players just to win games, we ended up being able to play everyone who wasn't injured. By the end of the tournament, I saw impressive improvement in individual players. As they worked out together, they grew closer and developed tight bonds."

However, the games against USA and Panama in the first round were painful.

"The enthusiasm that the USA and Panama teams showed for games was completely different from the other teams. 15U players should develop gradually, so our mission is to develop their skills through games and work to prevent injuries, taking into account the further goal of playing on high school and professional teams. Players in the U.S.A. and Panama teams have already set their sights on becoming MLB players. MLB scouts also visited this world cup and players have chances to enter contracts. Therefore, even when they are injured, they want to give it their best. This world cup was a chance for those players to shoot for their dreams. The starting pitcher (junior high school age in Japan) on the U.S.A. team was throwing 90 mph (144 km) fastballs and the closer was throwing 92 mph (147 km) pitches. I think it’s tough even for high school players to hit a ball going that fast. Needless to say, therefore, it was extremely hard for the junior high school players.

Coach Katori said “It was not only the difference in skills that caused the loss in games in the first round,” he said, "unexpected errors caused the loss in both games.”

"Of course, everyone makes mistakes in games. We always expect a few wild throws and missed catches in the infield, mistakes that can often be covered by other players. This time, though, we had too many. We made mistakes like a wild throw after a grounder, a missed fly ball, and a dropped ball on a slide into home base. These types of mistakes generally happen when a team lacks practice in the basics. Although these kids are all elite players on their junior high school baseball teams, they are still immature, which means you see a lot of easy mistakes. These types of basic mistakes were also being made by the kids on the high-level teams such as the U.S.A. and Panama. It really highlights the importance of individual performance."

Ended in the 7th, but they have learned a lot from those games.

"They learn about the importance of each ball through experience playing against other teams, and the lesson was brought home in the game against Panama. Watching their hitting in fielding practice, I felt that the Japanese players had much better form than the players on the other teams. As it turned out, though, those other players were much better at preventing runners from getting on base even if they didn't look as cool as the Japanese players did when they were doing it. This is why they made fewer mistakes. In addition, the attitude of the Brazil players was excellent. They looked very serious about the game, and it showed in their performance."

Team Japan members worked hard to improve their individual skills, and they learned a lot playing at the world level. When these players become high school students, this experience will put them at a higher level. These cup games have been an outstanding experience for their future.

"It is important that this experience becomes meaningful for the players. The players should return to their home teams and talk about what they've learned through these games to share and expand their experience. They should talk about their thoughts and what they learned from the games. It doesn't need to be anything special. They can talk about, for example, the American pitcher being able to deliver 90-mph pitches. Such information is valuable in helping players who haven't had the experience of playing at this level yet to move up to the next stage against other teams in international competition."

The 20 players on the Samurai Japan team may continue on to 18U, university, 21U, adult, and top level teams; and many 15U players in Japan dream of playing on top teams. Head coach Katori believes that the experience of individual players at the world cup will help all 15U players and lead to an increase in the level of Japanese baseball.

Game Results

1st Round
Schedule Results
Thursday, July 31, 2014 Japan 15 - 1 South Africa
Friday, August 1, 2014 Japan 7 - 5 Germany
Saturday, August 2, 2014 New Zealand 0 - 16 Japan
Sunday, August 3, 2014 U.S.A. 7 - 2 Japan
Monday, August 4, 2014 Japan 1 - 6 Panama
2nd Round
Schedule Results
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 Australia 1 - 15 Japan
Thursday, August 7, 2014 Japan 11 - 0 Argentina
Friday, August 8, 2014 Japan 6 - 0 Brazil
Saturday, August 9, 2014 Japan 4 - 0 Italy


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