The battle for Gold begins at the ISF Junior Men’s World Championship

Written by Bob on July 19th, 2014

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WHITEHORSE, YUKON, CA – The wheat has been separated from the chaff; the cream has risen to the top.

Call it what you may. But after eight days and 54 games in the 10th ISF Junior Men’s World Championship, it has come down to this.

Argentina, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia have proven they are the four best teams in young men’s (age 19-under) fastpitch softball.

Over The final two days of the tournament, these fastpitch-rich countries will battle in the medal round to determine who has the best wheat, the best cream.

    SOUTH AMERICA DYNASTY

In round robin play, defending 2012 champion Argentina dominated. The fabulous Argentines strung together nine consecutive victories to go undefeated.

So as the seeding goes, Argentina is No. 1.

In head-to-head battle between the “Final Four,” Argentina defeated Australia 3-0, Japan 8-1, New Zealand 5-0.

    THE FABULOUS FINAL FOUR

The seeding in the medal round has shaped up like this:

No. 1 seed, Argentina, 9-0
No. 2 seed, New Zealand 8 -1 (beat Australia 5-1 and Japan 2-1)
No. 3 seed, Japan 6-3 (beat Australia 2-1)
No. 4 seed, Australia (lost to all three, but defeated USA, 8-0, to qualify)

The battle for gold begins Saturday at 4 p.m. between No. 3 and 4. It’s single elimination for Japan and Australia; the winner advances and is assured of no less than a Bronze medal, while the loser finishes fourth.

    GREAT MATCH-UP

Then at 6 p.m. New Zealand collides with Argentina. Both have two lives. The winner proceeds to the Gold medal game, while the loser takes on either Australia or Japan, with the victor claiming entry into the championship finale.

My top three picks. Unless Argentina falls apart, they will win their second consecutive world championship.

How good are they? Going back to 2012, they have now won 18 consecutive world championship games. Hard to bet against that kind of dominance. In my book, they are the cream of the crop. And it all starts in the circle.

    THE UNTOUCHABLES

The pitching staff of Huemul Mata (3-0), Roman Godoy (4-0), Franco Gini, and Julian Fernandez (2-0) has been untouchable. Six games without allowing a single run? How can you argue with that?

It finally took Japan and the USA to break through with one and two runs respectively. Other than that, zilch, nada, lights out.

To me, Mata is the ace. I know Godoy has the better record, and he’s good – very good. But Mata has all the pitches: hard riser and drop, great control and the best change-up I’ve seen of any pitcher in the tournament.

    MIGHTY MATA

In 19 innings, Mata has walked one and struck out 37 with no blemish on his ERA: 0.00 against the best young ball players in the world. And he has experience on this big stage. In 2012, he was in the circle when Agentina beat Japan 5-0 to win its first world championship.

Mata’s compliment (some would say just as good) is Godoy.

What a brilliant tournament Godoy has had: 23 innings, three earned runs, six walks, 47 strikeouts, and an ERA of 0.91.

Gini and Fernandez have pitched six innings each. This is the golden hour with a world championship for the taking. I don’t see either of them getting inside the circle.

    A NO-BRAINER

If I’m the manager, with Mata and Godoy in the stable, I hand them the ball and say, “go get the Gold boys.”

And we can’t overlook the offense. The big sticks of Facundo Carril (.417 average and 8 RBI), Gonzalo Masmu (.333 avg., 11 RBI) and Godoy (.333 avg., 6 RBI) and company have scored 66 runs while allowing just thee. Only Japan with 74 runs has scored more often.

    THE GOLD STANDARD

I think that Argentina is so determined on winning consecutive championships that anything less than Gold will be a tarnish, a stain on their legacy. Shouldn’t be that way, but champions want nothing less than championships. (Just ask the Miami Heat.)

So I’ve picked Argentina and I feel pretty confident. Would I place a big wager? No. If New Zealand or Japan wins the Gold, I won’t be shocked. These two ball clubs are very good, and they’ve been playing great ball over the last few days.

As has Australia.

But I don’t think the Colts hit the ball well enough to medal. They’ve been spotty with the sticks. And in those three games with Argentina, New Zealand and Japan, the Colts only scored two runs.

But they did get hot in the must-win game against the United States and Jerremyah Selu (2-1) is one tough pitcher. He’s gone 21 2/3 innings, allowed one earned run, struck 25 and has a 0.32 ERA.

The Colts pitching staff is by committee with three other arms that have seen plenty of action in the round robin.

The hitting I think will be their downfall. Yes Australia blasted the USA and Denmark and Singapore. But those staffs don’t have the likes of what they will face in the medal rounds.

My crystal ball foretells Gold for Argentina. Silver, New Zealand. Bronze, Japan.

But we shall find out soon enough as the battle for the Gold begins.

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