What To Watch For At WBSC XVI Men's Softball World Championship

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With eight teams expecting to make the playoffs again in the tournament, worldwide softball fans can expect intense competition in Group A of the XVI WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship, starting on Thursday in Prague. World No. 1 New Zealand, Japan (3), Argentina (5), host Czech Republic (7), Mexico (9), Botswana (13), Philippines (17) and Cuba (24) have all playoff experience, and will arrive to Europe aiming to finish as one of the top four teams of the group and advance to the decisive stage of the tournament.

Group A

The group will open Thursday, with host Czech Republic facing the defending world champions New Zealand, in the only game of the day. The start of the contest is scheduled at 19:30, at Svoboda Park in Prague.

The other six teams will make their debut on Friday at Hippos Arena, in Havlickuv Brod. The Philippines will play Cuba, Argentina opens against Botswana, and Mexico will face Japan, in the last game of the day.

New Zealand is the most successful Men’s National Team in history. Two years ago, in Whitehorse, the Black Sox clinched their seventh world championship with a come-from-behind victory over arch-rivals, Australia. Captain Nathan Nukunuku (playing his seventh world championship) will lead a roster with three natural pitchers (Nik Hayes, Daniel Chapman and Josh Pettett) and three newcomers (Reilly Makea, Daniel Chapman and Jackson Watt). New Zealand has played the last ten World Championship Finals, winning six of them, and have never finished below fifth place overall in this event. They’ll try to keep the streak alive, playing (and winning) the last game of the tournament on 23 June.

Japan will be one of the main contenders in Group A. Built on the success of the Junior Men’s program, the Japanese team comes to the Czech Republic with high expectations, after winning in February the Challenge Cup in New Zealand, defeating the world champions by 3-1 in the final match. Reo Koyama will be the ace of the staff while two-way player Hikaru Matsuda will lead the offensive of the Asian Champions. The Japanese squad is trying to bring home their first-ever flagship world championship. Back in 2000, Japan lost its only World Championship final in East London, South Africa, against New Zealand. They have played in all the 15 previous World Championship.

The third top-ranked nation in Group A is Argentina (5). After back to back titles in the Junior World Championships 2012 and 2014, the South American nation will try to reach the podium for the first time ever in the senior event. Known for their always strong pitching staff, this time they will have the veteran right-hander Juan Potolicchio as their most experienced arm, while two-time junior world champions Huemul Mata and Roman Godoy will try to repeat their dominant performances at the junior level. Two years ago in Whitehorse, they matched their best performance ever, with a fourth-place finish. Now their goal is to claim the first medal in history for the white and blue team, in their tenth World Championship presence.

In their ninth consecutive World Championship participation, Czech Republic will host the most important Men’s Softball event in the world for the first time in history. Coming from a ninth-place performance two years ago in Whitehorse, the host nation is eager to capitalize on the home advantage to make the playoffs for the third time (2004 and 2015). Veterans Jaroslav Brenik, Michal Holobradek, and Jonas Mach, along with newcomer Marek Joska, will take the circle in front of the host crowd, and try to guide their team into the top five in the final standings for the first time ever.

Mexico hosted the first ever World Championship in 1966 and made the final in home soil, to lose against the United States. And then four years later they clinched the Bronze medal in Oklahoma City. They made the playoffs in four if the first five World Championships, but then only advanced once, in 1996. Their last World Championship appearance was in 2015 in Saskatoon, finishing at tenth place. In the 13th participation in the event, Mexico will battle to be back in the big party again. The pitching staff will be full of young arms, with all four hurlers making their first appearance in a flagship softball World Championship. If they can stop the opposite offensive, then the always powerful lineup can carry the team to the playoffs again.

Two years ago Botswana stunned the world making the playoffs for the first time in history. The key game of the round robin was a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic with a complete-game stellar performance by Kagiso Mogale. The right-hander will lead one more time his team, trying to repeat the 2017 historic performance. It will be their seventh participation in the World Championship. They made their debut in 1992 in Manila, the Philippines, and they have participated in six of the last eight global tournaments. The African champions aim to make back to back playoffs.

The Philippines made their debut in the World Championship in 1968 and made the playoffs to finish fourth. After that, they never came back to the decisive stage of the tournament in their next eight participations. They only won one game in 2013 and 2015 combined and missed the last World Championship in 2017. They’ll try to upset their rivals in this strong Group A, to advance again more than 50 years later.

The lowest ranked team in Group A is Cuba (24). However, they will be a dangerous squad to face. Last year they beat Venezuela to win the gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games Barranquilla 2018, and they also eliminated Canada from the Pan American Games in 2017. So in their second participation ever in the World Championship, Cuba will be in the mix for one of the top four spots in the group standings. The only Cuban participation was back in 1988 when the made the playoffs and finished fourth place. They rely on the experienced right-hander Alain Roman, a strong defense behind their pitchers and a dangerous lineup to make the playoffs again, 31 years later.

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 the 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.


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.

Group B

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.

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