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Women's Baseball World Cup Begins

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No, not softball

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

"Batter Up, hear that call, the time has come for one and all to play ball! We're the members of the All American League! We come from cities near and far, we've got Canadians, Irish ones, and Swedes. We're all for one, we're one for all, we're all American. Each girl stands, her head so proudly high, her motto ‘Do or Die,' she's not the one to use or need an alibi! Our chaperones are not too soft; they're not too tough. Our managers are on the ball, we've got a President who really knows his stuff. We're all for one, we're one for all, we're all American!"  - Victory Song of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

World War II had profound impacts across every corner of society, baseball included. With thousands upon thousands of young men getting drafted into the armed services and minor league teams being forced to disband as a result, Chicago Cubs owner and gum-fortune-heir Philip Wrigley envisioned a women's baseball league that could inherit the now-empty minor league stadiums. Four teams in the general vicinity of Chicago were formed originally (though expansion to the league would happen swiftly), the Kenosha Comets, the Racine Belles, the Rockford Peaches, and the South Bend Blue Sox, the Rockford Peaches being far and away the most dominant team, winning four championships throughout the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League's (AAGPBL)  twelve-year history. While women had been playing baseball in some capacity since the Civil War era, this league was the first major, nationally recognized baseball league of women, and despite the league's relative lack of longevity, the impact of the league would be long-lasting and women's baseball would never entirely go away.

In early September, 2014, long removed from the ladies playing baseball in form-fitting tunics with short skirts and knee-high socks of the AAGPBL, and now far from All-American, the best woman baseball players in Japan and the United States faced head-to-head in the final game of the sixth Women's Baseball World Cup following a long and hard-fought tournament. In an incredibly well-pitched affair between the United States' Sarah Hudek, just seventeen years old at the time, and Japan's Ayami Sato, a formidable force for the Madonna Japan team throughout the tournament, went down to the wire but ultimately ended in Madonna Japan emerging victorious 3-0 in a complete game effort from Sato. Japan had dominated the tournament, outscoring its opponents an astounding 63-2 over the eight games that the women played. However, even in just the two years since the last tournament, the world of women and baseball has grown exponentially, and the defending champions will have much stronger competition looking to take the trophy for themselves.

There are twelve teams in the tournament, pooled and ranked as follows:

Pool A:

Korea (11)

Venezuela (5)

Cuba (8)

Pakistan (NR)

Pool B:

Japan (1)

Canada (4)

The Netherlands (7)

India (NR)

Pool C:

United States (2)

Australia (3)

Chinese Taipei (6)

Hong Kong (9)

Playing for Team USA, there should be familiar names in Anna Kimbrell, Stacy Piagno, and Kelsie Whitmore, all of whom have played with the Independent League Sonoma Stompers this year. Kimbrell is a veteran of the Team USA roster, and has been involved with the team for nearly a full decade. As a catcher, she will be in charge of eliciting the best out of the young pitching staff of Team USA as well as command the defense behind them. Piagno, during the Pan Am games last summer, coolly tossed a no-hitter in the extreme heat against the Puerto Rican team, only to come right back just days later in relief to close out the championship game for Team USA in nearly four innings without allowing a run to score. Whitmore is just a mere seventeen years old this year herself, but the outfielder and pitcher has exceeded expectations at every level she's played at, and has her eyes set on a professional baseball career. They, and seventeen other highly talented women, will be looking to win the coveted gold medal for their country.

Entering the tournament, being played in Gijang, Korea, with an international twelve game winning streak, Madonna Japan once again enters the tournament as the favorites, claiming victories in the previous four tournaments after the United States won the first two.  However, Team USA has made many significant strides forward across all aspects of their game and look to reclaim the title of champion for themselves. But with Canada's potent offensive ability, with Olympic medalists playing for team Australia, and with playing on Korea's home turf, the path to the title won't be easy for any team.

Team USA's Schedule (thus far):

September 2nd, 6:00 PM Pacific Time versus Hong Kong

September 3rd, 8:30 PM Pacific Time versus Chinese Taipei

September 4th, 8:30 PM Pacific Time versus Australia

All games will be able to be streamed via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/wbsc