After a gruelling 36 hours in transit, we arrived in a hot and humid Tokyo, prepared and ready to play against fellow passionate and talented players from around the world.
Day one started with an official opening Ceremony followed by a two-hour training session at a local university baseball field. The temperature was high 30s with extreme humidity and the players desperately tried to acclimatize.
Day two saw our team play their first game of the tournament against the USA. We managed to put runs on the board early scoring 4 in the top of the first but in the bottom of the first a number of errors in the field unfortunately saw the USA take the lead. Playing on astroturf for the very first time for many was a huge adjustment but the fielders learnt quickly and played a very clean defensive game for the following innings. 3 pitchers combined to finish the game which ended with a loss, the final score being 12 to 6.
Day three we faced Hong Kong. A double elimination format meant that this game was a must win. With a stellar effort by our pitcher who went deep into the game, the team battled hard defensively and managed to offensively get runners into scoring position but unfortunately the left on bases cost us in the end. The final score was 5 nil knocking us out of the tournament.
With only friendlies now remaining we took a short break before meeting USA again at the grounds. An agreement was made to mix the teams and with each team having half Australian and half USA players made for some competitive and animated game play. International friendships were made as we bonded over baseball with these talented and dedicated players.
Day four we once again faced Hong Kong in a friendly and gave us a chance to even the score and play for a win against them. Unrestricted rotations allowed for lots of new defensive opportunities for our players and although hot and exhausted there were plenty of smiles on the diamond. The final score was 12 to Australia and 9 to Hong Kong, we secured our first win.
That afternoon we finally got a chance to take on our hosts. Our friendly against Japan, who later went on the win the Pony League World Series Championship, was enjoyed by all. After an exhausting game earlier that morning the girls dug deep and gave a formidable Japan a challenge, securing 1 run offensively and allowing us to rotating players through the mound, which meant that a total of 8 players were given the opportunity to pitch throughout the tournament.
Unfortunately, we were not given a chance to play against Chinese-Taipei but bonds were made with the players over the week and I am sure that as womens baseball continues to grow we will be watching their careers progress in the years to come.
We are so very fortunate to be able to have this experience in Japan. The Japanese have offered us amazing hospitality, the opportunity to meet and become friends with fellow baseballers will be treasured, and the “never give up” attitudes of our players who battled through mental and physical exhaustion is something to be proud of. We hope to always look back on this journey as one we treasure.
Thank you to each and every one of our players who represented themselves, the team and Australia so well on an international stage. Thank you to the support staff who dedicated so much time, energy and passion over this week and during the months leading up to it. Thank you to BWA and those behind the scenes that supported us and made the journey possible. Thank you to Pony League Japan, particularly the countless volunteers on the ground that have made us feel so welcome and ensured the games could go ahead.