* The coaches of the women's national teams competing at this year's Women's Baseball World Cup in Japan pose for a pre-tournament photo. Action gets underway Monday morning (9PM EST Sunday) with Canada vs. the Netherlands. (Photo: Alexis Brudnicki). .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians drafted .... Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
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By Alexis Brudnicki
MIYAZAKI, Japan - The countdown is over and the competition is set to begin.
Canada's Women's National Team took the field in training mode for the last time on Sunday, headed into the IBAF Women's Baseball World Cup and slated to play in the first matchup of the tournament against Team Netherlands on Monday morning local time, 9PM EST Sunday.
"We're excited to be here and we're looking forward to getting into games," Australia's head coach Simone Wearne said at the pre-tournament press conference. "The teams here will provide strong competition and we're ready to play."
Australia shares its first-round pool with the world's top ranked team in Japan, as well as Venezuela and Hong Kong. Currently second in world rankings, Team USA, along with Canada, Netherlands and Chinese Taipei, round out the other tournament pool. The team from north of the border shares the third spot in the world with the squad from down under.
"It's always great games when we play Japan, when we play the USA and Australia and everybody," Canada's manager Andre Lachance said. "And we've proven in the past that we can beat those teams. So we come here with one goal in mind and it's to win it all.
"We're confident in our team and the only promise I can make you is anytime a team will play Canada, it won't be easy. We'll give everything we have, and it's going to be a great game."
Team USA manager Jonathan Pollard immediately set his sights on defeating the reigning World Cup champions and host team, the Japanese squad.
"If we control what is under our control, we're going to do well," Pollard said. "We have to bring our best game to beat all the countries that are here. We tremendously respect Japan and not only for their ability in the championships, but they play the game the right way.
"That's a competitor you want to compete against. You want to beat the best and that's why we're here."
Veteran Canadian third baseman Ashley Stephenson has been with the team since its inception in 2004 and the event in Miyazaki will be her sixth World Cup. The 31-year-old is confident in the squad that Canada has sent to the tournament and is looking forward to getting games underway.
"We have a core group of girls that have been together for a long time," Stephenson said. "For the first time in a long time - probably six years - we have depth at the pitching position. Our infielders have worked together for a long time and our outfielders - even though we have some young new outfielders - in the last four warmup games we've played, they've been fantastic.
"We're ready to go."
At the most recent World Cup event in Edmonton, AB, the Canadian women earned a bronze medal, adding to two other bronze medals and one silver finish in previous World Cup competition.
In the first round of the tournament, the women's squad will face Chinese Taipei Tuesday and then USA on Wednesday after the first matchup against Netherlands. The top two teams from the pool will advance.
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis