First there was the College World Series, then the men’s soccer World Cup. Maybe lately you’ve been watching the baseball or softball Little League World Series. If you like do-or-die tournaments with a regional or national cheering component, this summer of fun is not over yet.
The Women’s Baseball World Cup will be played on American soil for the first time in Viera, Florida. It is run by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, the governing body for both baseball and softball. WBSC oversees all international competitions. The eighth installment of the Women’s Baseball World Cup, which is held every other year, will take place from August 22nd through the 31st.
This year, the WBSC will broadcast all 50 games of the tournament for the first time ever. An exact live-streaming location will be announced on the WBSC website.
While this is the United States’ first time playing host, the team has a good history in the tournament. The US won the first two World Cups before a dominant Japanese team took the next five. The USA has placed second twice and third twice, with 2016 being the first year the Americans failed to make the top four.
Twelve teams will compete in 2018: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela.
Previously, all nations played each other in the first round. Now that the field has expanded, they are broken into Groups A and B, similar to the soccer World Cup. Each team plays the other five teams in its group once. From there, the groups are placed in order by record after the opening round. In the Super Round, the top three teams in Group A play the top three teams in Group B, while the bottom three teams in each group do the same in the consolation half.
There are a couple reasons why this is cool: The early games REALLY matter. If you do poorly in your group play, you’re out. If you do well in group play, your reward is a gauntlet of the best teams in the tournament. Hopefully, this means fewer throw-away games and more drama.
The two teams with the best overall record after the Super Round compete in the championship game and the next two teams by record play for the bronze medal. Regulation games are seven innings long, but a mercy rule does apply. A game may be stopped early if one team holds a 10 run lead after five or a 12 run lead after four.
If you’re not already sold, take a look at the official promo video. See that catcher get trucked around the one minute mark? They can’t even do that in MLB.
— WBSC #WomensBaseball ⚾🥎 (@WBSC) August 20, 2018
Who to Watch
Of the 20-player US roster, there are 14 women who have played on the national team before. Four returning players were on the last World Cup championship team in 2006 and 11 were on the team that won gold in the 2015 Pan American Games. The players range in age from 43 to just 16 years old.
One very cool addition is Ila Borders. Although a newcomer, she has a baseball resume that includes being the first woman to receive a college scholarship to play men’s baseball and the first female pitcher to start a men’s professional baseball game.
In Group A, the United States has to watch out for Venezuela and Chinese Taipei, who placed third and fourth, respectively, in 2016. The US has a chance to get off to a good start in the Opening Round as they face Puerto Rico in the first game while their two biggest competitors play each other. Should they advance to the Super Round, the teams headlining Group B are heavy-hitters Japan, Canada, and Australia. All three teams are contenders every year.
Japan, of course, should be something special to watch. In 2016, they gave up two runs in the first Super Round game… and nothing else for the rest of the tournament. They hung 10 runs on three of their next four opponents, including Canada in the gold medal final. Japan’s run has been so strong, they have not lost a World Cup game since 2012.
Baseball or softball?
Women all over the United States have played softball. The local rec leagues are easy to find and many high schools of a certain size have teams. But a growing number of women have been fighting to be able to play baseball – competing on men’s college and independent league teams like Ila Borders. Non-profits, such as Baseball for All, have been created to help support girls who want to be treated equally and play baseball, not softball.
You also won’t find any overlap between the United States’ women’s national softball and baseball teams. The level at which both teams play requires commitment to one sport over the other.
Hopefully, female baseball and softball players alike will one day receive the same chance to play and be recognized as their male peers. Until then, we have a national team playing in and hosting an international competition. There’s no worrying about if you have the right cable package. If you’re reading this, you probably have an internet connection and can stream these games. Let’s show these incredible athletes that we support them.