S'pore leap at softball chance

S'pore leap at softball chance

For the first time in more than two decades, the national men's softball team could step up to the global stage when the world championship is held next June in Canada.

Three qualifying berths are up for grabs at the Asian qualifier which began yesterday at the Kallang Diamond.

It will be held until Saturday.

Singapore trounced Brunei yesterday 8-1 to take their opening match but were edged out by regional powerhouses Philippines 8-3 after holding them to just one run in the early stages of their second game.

Still, having won the South-east Asia Championship in Indonesia in September, the Republic are confident of earning qualification.

The last time Singapore competed at the men's world championship was in 1992 in the Philippines.

Said Jeffeury Tan, president of the Singapore Baseball & Softball Association (SBSA): "Since then, we've never come as close as we have now.

"This is a great chance."

He credits the youth and speed of the team, as well as a good crop of pitchers in recent years, for the rise in standards.

The Singapore players have an average age of 22 while many in the five other teams competing in the tournament average in the late 20s or early 30s.

Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan are the other teams competing, with Japan, a world-class side, a clear front runner.

To help lift standards, the SBSA has been sending the team to compete in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Said Tan: "We wanted them to have a feel of the speed of other pitchers. They don't often have a chance to play against pitchers who throw at high speeds."

The average pitching speed locally, he added, hovers around 90kmh though some pitchers have improved to clock about 118kmh.

Pitchers in Australia and New Zealand consistently throw at about 128kmh.

With four of the six teams at the qualifier from South-east Asia, the Singapore team are also aware that doing well will put them in good stead for the SEA Games on home soil in June.

Said captain Ivan Ng: "Everyone is committed to doing well at home so there is extra motivation to bring out the best in each other."

Added national coach John Tan: "This is a very good warm-up tournament (for the SEA Games). It's going to be a good gauge.

"Apart from the home-ground advantage, we also have a bunch of very good young boys. We're quietly confident of making the final for the SEA Games which will be a first for us."

Singapore were bronze medallists at the 2011 SEA Games in Palembang. The sport was not contested at the Myanmar edition last year.

Making reference to how the team won the South-east Asia Championship this year, he said: "There is a strong belief that we've done it before and we can do it again."

maychen@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 17, 2014.
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