Men's Softball World Championship preview: Three champions to battle in Group B
Group B of the WBSC Men's Softball World Championship will feature an interesting battle among some of the most historic teams in the world. Starting on Friday, world No. 2 Canada, Australia (4), USA (6), Venezuela (8), Denmark (11), South Africa (12), Netherlands (19) and Singapore (22) will battle in Group B to become one of the eight top teams in the world.
The eight teams will open on Friday in Prague, with the first four games of the group.
After missing the first World Championship in 1966, Canada has played 14 consecutive events and always have made the playoffs. It's the longest streak ever, and they will try to keep it alive in Czech Republic. The four-time world champions present an experienced team, with 9 veterans from the 2015 National Team, the last to be crowned world champions, including pitchers Sean Cleary, Devon McCullough and Ryan Boland. Canada is in the hunt for their fifth championship and 13th medal ever.
Australia will rely once again on the most dominant pitching staff in the world, with righty Adam Folkard and lefty Andrew Kirkpatrick leading the way. The two veterans will share the pitching duties with newcomer Layton Reid, who pitched a no-hitter in the 2018 Junior Men's World Championship Final to clinch the title. The Aussies made their first appearance in the tournament in 1988, with a seventh-place finish, and 21 years later they claimed their first and only World Championship in Saskatoon, Canada, with an unforgettable performance by Folkard, who pitched a no-hitter against New Zealand in the world title game. If the two superstar pitchers have a good week in Czech Republic, Australia could be playing and winning the game 72 of the tournament.
The United States is the second most decorated team in history, with five titles. They won four of the first five events played and won a medal in the first eight World Championships. After that, they only have made the podium once, in 2000. Their last title was in 1988, in Saskatoon. The red, white and blue have played the 15 previous World Championships, and missed the playoffs only once, in 2015. Veterans Tony Mancha and Matt Palazzo are the big names of the team, along with utility player Erick Ochoa. Their goal is to advance to the playoffs in Group B and claim the tenth medal ever in program's history.
Venezuela won their only two medals in 2013 and 2015 when they clinched the silver and bronze medal respectively. The South American champions have made the playoffs the last four tournaments, and they come to Czech Republic to reach again the podium. A core of veteran players, including catcher Rafael Flores, first baseman John Zambrano and left-handed pitcher Erick Urbaneja, have been the core of the team and will lead the “Vinotinto” this year.
Denmark was the first European nation to participate in the Men's Softball World Championship, in 1988. This will be the seventh presence of the red team in the event. Their best performance was the 11th place in 2000. The Danish National Team aims to make the playoffs for the first time in history. Frederik and Jens Terkelsen are the names to follow in Denmark, who arrives in Czech Republic as the third-place finisher in the last European Championship.
Runner up in the last African Championship, South Africa will participate in its tenth World Championship. In 1996 they advanced to the playoffs, their first and only participation in the championship round of the tournament. They will try to repeat this performance 23 years later, getting one of the top 4 spots in Group B.
This will be the sixth participation of the Netherlands in the Men's Softball World Championship. They first played at 1996 and reached their best position ever, the 13th place. Since then, they have won only three games in four events. However, the orange nation arrives to Czech Republic as the second best team in the Old Continent, so they will try to improve their performance this summer in European soil.
Singapore is back to the World Championship after 27 years, and ready to play this event for the third time in history. They have played this event in 1972 and 1992. This time they qualified for the World Championship as the third Asian team, beating Indonesia to clinch their spot in Czech Republic. They've never been in the playoffs.