The WBSC U18 Men’s World Cup will see 12 of the best youth softball teams from five continents battle it out in Palmerston North, from 22 February to 1 March, to compete for the highest honour of playing for their countries and becoming world champions.
Three of the top five programs in the world will collide in the Group A. world No 2 Argentina, No. 4 Canada, No. 5 Australia, No. 7 Czech Republic, No. 10 South Africa and No. 17 Singapore. Five of these six teams are in the top ten of the WBSC Men’s Softball World Rankings.
Top-ranked Japan and the host New Zealand lead Group B, which also features No. 6 USA, No. 8 Mexico, No. 11 Denmark and No. 21 Guatemala.
Following a five-day Opening Round, the top three squads from each group will advance to the Super Round. The two teams with the best record after the Super Round will play in the World Championship Game on 1 March, while the third- and fourth-place teams will play for the bronze medal.
HISTORICAL RESULTS AND PREVIEWS
Three of the five winning nations in the history of the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship (JMSWC) will play in Group A, including the most decorated men’s softball youth program in the world, Australia; two-time world champions Argentina; and the winner of the 1993 World Championship, Canada.
JMSWC Appearances: 11
Highest finish: 1st Place (2012 and 2014)
2018 finish: 5th
– Argentina won back-to-back JMSWCs in 2012 in Parana (as the host team) and 2014 in Midland, USA. Three years later the core of these teams played a pivotal role in winning the WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship 2019, the country’s biggest-ever victory so far.
– In the last JMSWC in 2018, Argentina advanced to the page playoffs as the third place team in Group A, with a 4-2 record. The team finished in fifth place after a win over USA and a loss against Canada.
– After a historic 2019, where Argentina won the flagship softball event and claimed the gold medal in the Pan American Games in Lima, Argentina finished the year as the world No. 2 team in the rankings, only six points behind No. 1 Japan. A good result in Palmerston North could send the South American nation to the top of the rankings.
JMSWC Appearances: 12
Highest finish: 1st (1993)
2018 finish: 4th
– Canada has participated in all the men’s softball youth global competitions, with 12 appearances in the JMSWC. They organized the event seven times, including the first edition in 1981 in Edmonton, but have yet to win the title on home soil.
– Canada won their only JMSWC in New Zealand, in 1993.
– Canada beat Mexico, 4-1, in the final game of the Pan American Championship held in Guatemala to win the continental title. Jeff Ellsworth is leading the team for second time in a row, after his debut in Prince Albert.
JMSWC Appearances: 9
Highest finish: 1st (1997, 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2018)
2018 finish: 1st
– Australia is the most successful program in history. They won four consecutive world championships from 1997 to 2008, and then came back in 2018 for their fifth world title.
– Australia’s overall record in the JMSWC is 77-19, for an all time 80.2 % winning percentage.
– In Prince Albert 2018, Australia only lost one game, 3-2, against Japan, o the final day of the Opening Round. The Aussies took revenge in the final with a 6-1 victory. Right-hander Layton Reid pitched a complete game no-hitter.
JMSWC Appearances: 8
Highest finish: 7th (2016 and 2018)
2018 finish: 7th
– Czech Republic made their debut in the JMSWC in 1997 with a tenth place finish, becoming the first European team ever to play in this event.
– Czech Republic went undefeated to win the double round-robin played in the European Qualifier held in Gezer, Israel, and became the third National Team qualified for Palmerston North.
– The European team has finished seventh place in the last two editions of the JMSWC. These are the best performance ever for the Czechs.
JMSWC Appearances: 4
Highest finish: 6th (1997)
2018 finish: 10th
– Their best performance was in their debut, in 1997 in St. Johns, Canada, when they earned the sixth place. They have never advance to the playoffs in the JMSWC.
– South Africa will be the only African representative in the U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup. They beat Nigeria in a three-game series and became the last qualified team for Palmerston North.
– It will be South Africa’s third consecutive participation in the youth softball global event, after being present in Midland 2016 and Prince Albert 2018
JMSWC Appearances: 2
Highest finish: 10th (2014)
2018 finish: N/A
– Singapore defeated India, 8-1, in the semi-final of the six-team Asian Cup to punch their ticket to Palmerston North. Singapore is back on the youth global stage after six years of absence. Their last appearance was in 2014 in Whitehorse, Canada.
– In their two appearances in the JMSWC (Parana 2012 and Midland 2016) Singapore collected only one win in 14 games, a 3-1 win over Denmark in 2012.
– Last year Singapore climbed five spots in the WBSC Men’s Softball World Rankings and finished the year ranked 17th, their highest ever.
Japan and New Zealand appear as the teams to beat in Group B, as the world number one nation in the world and the host team aim to win their third youth men’s softball world title ever. The United States and Mexico are serious candidates to advance to the Super Round, while Denmark and Guatemala will try to surprise their rivals and advance to the next round for the first time ever.
JMSWC Appearances: 12
Highest finish: 1st (1981 and 2016)
2018 finish: 2nd
– Japan will make their official debut as the top ranked nation in the world. They climbed to the first place in the last WBSC Men’s Softball World Rankings, released in January, after their runner-up performance in the Men’s Softball World Championship in Prague, and their continental title in the U-17 Asian Championship.
– The Asian champions played five of the last seven JMSWC finals, but only won the 2016 edition in Midland. Their other title was in the inaugural event, in Edmonton, Canada. The Japanese team is only one of the three nations to be present at every JMSWC.
– Japan played all 12 editions of the JMSWC.
JMSWC Appearances: 11
Highest finish: 1st (1985 and 1989)
2018 finish: 3rd
– New Zealand hosted the event previously in 1993, in Auckland. The Junior Blacks Sox lost the final against Canada.
– The Junior Black Sox missed the first edition of the JMSWC, and won back-to-back titles in the 1980s in their first two appearances, in Fargo 1985 and Summerside 1989. However, since then, New Zealand has never won again, losing the four finals they played (1993, 1997, 2014 and 2016).
– After a disappointing fourth place in the Men’s Softball World Championship in Prague last year, New Zealand lost the top spot in the World Rankings for the first time since the rankings were launched.
JMSWC Appearances: 12
Highest finish: 2nd (1981, 1985)
2018 finish: 8th
– USA played the first two finals in 1981 and 1985, losing to Japan and New Zealand respectively. After that, they failed to claim a JMSWC medal.
– Last year, USA finished in fifth place at the Pan American Championship and didn’t qualify for the U-18 World Cup. They received a wild card to participate in Palmerston North.
– USA remains one of the three nations with perfect attendance on the youth men’s softball global stage.
JMSWC Appearances: 11
Highest finish: 3rd (1981)
2018 finish: 6th
– In the inaugural event of the JMSWC, Mexico earned their only medal in this age category. They beat Canada in the single elimination game, but then lost to USA the second semifinal.
– The U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup represents the first time Mexico plays in New Zealand, since they missed the 1993 World Championship in Auckland, their only absence in the youth age bracket.
– In Prince Albert 2018, they advanced to the playoffs as the fourth place squad in Group A, and then defeated Czech Republic in the first playoff, 4-2. However, their participation ended with a five-inning, 8-0 loss against New Zealand, to finish in sixth place.
JMSWC Appearances: 6
Highest finish: 8th (2012)
2018 finish: 13th
– Denmark made the playoffs only once in their six participations in the JMSWC. A 2-4 record proved enough for the Europeans to advance to the 2012 playoff round in Argentina, where the were knocked out by Canada by a score of 8-0.
– Denmark made their debut in the JMSWC in 2005 in Summerside. Since then, they played the last six World Championships in a row.
– In six appearances in the youth world championships, Denmark has won a total of six games.
JMSWC Appearances: 1
Highest finish: 11th (2018)
2018 finish: 11th
– Guatemala qualified into the WBSC U-18 Softball World Cup via the Pan American Championship at home soil, where they finished in fourth place. It will be their second youth world championship appearance, after the nation’s debut in 2018.
– Guatemala finished the previous youth world championship with two wins and six losses, which put them in 11th place. Guatemala defeated Hong Kong and South Africa, hitting .154 as a team, with 3 home runs. Their pitching staff compiled a 4.45 ERA
– Guatemalan National Teams, who were absent at the most recent men’s world championship and Pan American Games, fell six places in the World Rankings to No. 21.
All games will be streamed live through the WBSC YouTube page.
The Junior Steelers schedule across the Opening Round is as follows, all times listed in AEDT.