The ENEOS VI IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup took place in Miyazaki, Japan from September 1 to 7, 2014. The Samurai Japan Women's Team won all of its games, 3 in the 1st round of the preliminaries and 2 in the 2nd round, and took the USA in the final with a score of 3 to 0, which gave them their fourth consecutive world cup victory.
"By the time we finished playing Canada in the 2nd round of the preliminaries, I had already decided on the order of our starting pitchers. We got to this point according to plan with Ayami Sato (REIA) leading the team and controlling the game,"
said a clearly relieved coach Okura at the press conference after winning in the final against the USA on September 7. The team's fourth consecutive victory was made possible by individual players applying their skills to play their parts.
When they were practicing before the game, we could see them trying hard to keep the team in a good mood. The 4th batter on the roster, Tomomi Nishi (AFB ttR), had only 2 hits and 4 RBIs in 11 at bats, but she took the initiative in joking around with her team mates to take the edge off. Assistant Captain Risa Nakajima (Astraia) talked with pitchers to keep their motivation high. Nakajima talked about her role on the team.
"I just wanted to help Head Coach Okura and Coach Shimizu. I used my experience to give advice to the pitchers about when to go to the bullpen."
With such great support, Ayami Sato allowed no runs in 12 innings over 4 games and was voted MVP. Southpaw Nana Sasanuma (Heisei International University 1st year student), the team's youngest, allowed only 2 hits and not a single run in 7 innings over 2 games, which earned her the Best ERA and the All Star Team Best Starting Pitcher awards. Supporting her performance were the team's veteran catchers Nishi and Nakajima.
In addition, the level of tactical understanding among team members overwhelmed the other teams. The 1st batter on the roaster was 3rd basement Ayako Rokkaku (Samurai). She talked about the game.
"Defense in the final game was important. After I checked the 1st batter in the USA team's lineup and other fast runners to prepare for drag bunts, I concentrated on defense. As for offense, we kept the pressure up until the USA lost control, and we worked hard but patiently on our defense. I think we were able to hold both ends up throughout the game. Everyone on the team also understands both what they and the others are doing and supposed to do."
In the bottom of the third inning in the finals with two outs and two runners on base, Rokkaku scored on an error by the shortstop.
It was a moment in which Japan could showcase their style of baseball, which is to take full advantage of their opponent's mistakes. That is also what they practiced relentlessly throughout the final camp training in Matsuyama, Ehime.
Japan team members also recognized the support they received from outside the team because Japan hosted this world cup.
Batting-practice pitcher Mami Kuroiwa, for example, who played in the IV IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup in 2010 and led the team to a first place win, worked hard backstage to support the team throughout the competition.
In addition, players who didn't make the Japan team, former team members, and many other female baseball players cheered for the team at the stadium.
The wealth of support included 10,000 fans living in Miyazaki who came to see the games each day and all the people whose efforts made this world cup successful. Yukiko Kon (Hornets Ladies), who hit 8 RBI's and who at 36 is the oldest player on the team, expressed her gratitude to everyone.
"Players who didn't make the Team Japan and former members came to root for us. With the meals that were provided and all the other support we received, we were able to prepare well for the games."
We also often heard other players and staff thanking people for their support during the competition.
This win marks the fourth consecutive championship for Japan and the first for the team as Samurai Japan.
The win was not, however, an easy victory. The victories in the two games against the USA were the result of very slight differences. Although Japan won a great victory over Australia in the 1st round and Canada in the 2nd round, both teams have outstanding pitchers.
Akiko Shimura (Asahi T rust), who captained the team for two years, had this to say about this year's opponents.
"The level of Japan has increased, but the level of the other teams has also increased. So I have to remember that we need to continue improving."
If they can continue to play like they did in this world cup, I am confident that they will bring home their 5th consecutive victory from the VII World Cup to be hosted by Korea in 2 years. Miki Atsugase (Astraia), who together with Ayaka Deguchi (Shobi Gakuen University 4th year student) has made the space between short and second impossible to get through, was direct about what she feels is the key to the team's success.
"We have established a basic attitude toward the way we play that no other team has been able to punch through yet."
This energy and spirit that forms the core of the Samurai Japan women's team will pass to the next generation and result in the improvement of Japanese baseball. I hope that it will also lead to a delightful victory in two years.
Preliminary 1st Round
Preliminary 2nd Round
Final Round/ Final Game
VI IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup 2014 in Miyazaki Team Members
VI IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup 2014 in Miyazaki