Young GB players face European doubleheader

Tue 3 Jul 2018


A busy few weeks are coming up for 11 young softball players who will be representing GB at two back-to-back European Championship tournaments in July: the Women’s Under-19 Championship in Italy and the Women’s Under-22 Championship in Slovakia.

The Under-19 Championship will be held from 16-21 July in and around Staranzano and Ronchi di Legionari, near Trieste in northeast Italy.  Once that tournament finishes, the GB players – and players from other countries who are participating in both tournaments -- will have just a single day to travel the 614 kilometres to Trnava in western Slovakia, near the Austrian border, where the U-22 Championship will run from 23-28 July.

The ESF has arranged a coach on which players can make the journey on Sunday 22 July, and the full GB Under-22 Team will be using it.  That’s because GB Under-22 Head Coach Johanna Malisani and her staff, as well as the five Under-22 players not taking part in the Under-19 Europeans, will spend the week with the Under-19s in Staranzano, training and bonding with their teammates and cheering them on.

Doubling up

The players who are playing in both the European Under-19 and Under-22 Women’s Championships are:

Katie Burge 
Saskia Davies
Hannah Edwards  
Andrea Johnson  
Lauren King   
Olivia Lee   
Diana Nisbett
Megan Parno    
Sydney Robson
Alana Snow  
Kyra Watson

One key reason why the GB Under-19 and Under-22 teams are sharing so many players is that the European Under-22 Championship finishes only a few days before the start of the WBSC Women’s World Championship in Japan, which begins on 2 August.   This means that players 22 and younger selected to the GB Women’s Team are unable to play in the European Under-22 Championship as well, as they will be training in Japan while the tournament finishes.

This is presumably also the case for the Netherlands and Italy, Europe’s other two representatives at the World Championship, who will thus field slightly younger teams at the European Under-22 tournament than they might have done otherwise.

For many of the GB players, it’s not just about two tournaments back-to-back.  Almost all the players on both GB age group teams will be playing in the London Cup International Women’s Fastpitch Tournament [http://www.baseballsoftballuk.com/news/view/international-womens-softball-comes-to-Farnham-Park-via-The-London-Cup] at Farnham Park on 7-8 July, either for the GB Under-19s or for a GB Select Team that will be made up mostly of GB Women and Under-22 players.

It will be a lot of softball in a short space of time, but that’s exactly what GB players need: more time together in testing competitions.

GB Under-19s

The GB Under-19s are the current European Junior Champions, a title they won in thrilling fashion at the European Under-19 Championship in 2016 in Sant Boi, near Barcelona, when they scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Italy in the final.

It was GB’s first-ever gold medal in European fastpitch softball.

Only five players from that team are still on the roster for this year’s tournament, where GB will need to win a medal again – gold, silver or bronze – to qualify for the 2019 Junior World Championship in Irvine, California.

The Under-19s have a new Head Coach this year in Robbie Robison.  Robbie served as an Assistant Coach when the GB Under-19s played in last summer’s Junior World Championship in Florida, and he has previously been an Assistant Coach for the GB Women as well as the GB Slowpitch Team. He was the Head Coach for the GB Select Team at this year’s Indoor Cup in the Netherlands in January.

So Robbie brings plenty of experience to the role, and he has inherited a talented team.  Although pitcher Georgina Corrick, who led the Under-19s to their European title in Spain, has now aged out of this group, as has GB-based pitcher Amie Hutchison, the GB Juniors will have four pitchers on the roster and two experienced catchers, and a number of other players who gained experience at the Junior World Championship last summer in Florida.

Seventeen countries have entered the European Under-19 Championship, and GB will start in a round-robin pool that includes Russia, Denmark and Ireland.  The top two teams from four initial pools will advance to Championship playoff rounds.

GB’s first game will be at 1.30 pm Italian time (12.30 in the UK) on Monday 16 June against Russia.

Looking forward to the London Cup and the European Championship, Robbie Robison said: “I am very excited about these upcoming tournaments.  It’s great to have the London Cup back, especially with teams from Europe coming to compete.  As everyone knows, GB players do not get to play as a team very often, so the London Cup is an ideal platform to start the tour.

“This year we have 10 returning players from last year’s squad with the addition of six new players,” Robbie added. “All 16 athletes have been working extremely hard as individuals, and the communication between the GB coaches and athletes has been more fluid than previous years.  Defensively, GB has always been strong, but equally our offense may be the strongest the GB Under-19s have seen in years.

“At this year’s Europeans our goal is to medal, and with this young and exciting team we have the ability to accomplish this!”

The full GB Under-19 roster for the London Cup and European Championship is:

Katie Burge
Saskia Davies
Hannah Edwards
Beth Fleming
Laura Hirai
Andrea Johnson
Lauren King
Alexis Larrow
Olivia Lee
Glenys McGuire
Diana Nesbitt
Megan Parno
Sydney Robson
Morgan Salmon
Alana Snow
Kyra Watson

The staff is:

Head Coach:  Robbie Robison
Assistant Coach:  Russ Snow
Pitching Coach:  Tina Whitlock
Team Manager:  James Hirai
Physio:  Sarah Cormack

GB Under-22s

The GB Under-22 Women’s Team is one of two new GB teams created this year, along with the GB Slowpitch Men’s Team, which recently won the first-ever European Men’s Slowpitch Championship.

The ESF has had an Under-22 Women’s Championship for the past 10 years, and it is largely the cost of playing in an additional tournament that has stopped the GB Softball programme, which receives no government funding, from taking part. 

But it has been clear for some time to GB coaches and the GB Management Committee that the jump from Under-19 to Senior softball is a big one, and having an Under-22 team can help players bridge the gap.

Head Coach for the first-ever GB Under-22 Team will be BSUK Fastpitch Development Manager Johanna Malisani, who last year coached the GB Under-16 Team to a fifth-place finish at the European Cadette Championship, a placing that many people felt might be beyond the team’s ability.

Jo and the GB Management Committee have recruited an experienced staff to support her, including two American college coaches, Gina Carbonatto and Windy Thees, who will be joining the GB programme for the first time.

Seventeen countries – a record number – have entered the competition, which was won in 2016 by the Netherlands.

GB will begin the tournament as part of a five-team round-robin pool that includes Greece, Turkey, Ireland and Slovakia.  As usual, two teams from each of four initial round-robin pools will go forward to Championship playoffs.

GB will open the tournament on Monday 23 July with a 9.00 am game against Ireland. 

Johanna Malisani said: “The team is excited to represent Great Britain at the Under-22 Women's European Championship, as it is always an honour to proudly represent your country on the international stage.  We have been working diligently since the team was announced in March to ensure we continue to develop individually as athletes and coaches, and collectively as a team.

“We are excited that we will be coming together in just over two weeks’ time at our training camp in Italy,” Jo added, “where we will put the finishing touches on our preparations heading into the Europeans, where we will leave it all on the field, playing with GB Pride and Heart!”

The full GB Under-22 roster for the European Championship is:

Katie Burge   
Saskia Davies
Hannah Edwards   
Amie Hutchison       
Andrea Johnson   
Lauren King   
Olivia Lee    
Casey Moritz
Holly Newell
Diana Nisbett
Megan Parno   
Chelsie Robison      
Sydney Robson
Alana Snow  
Kyra Watson
Sian Wigington

The staff is:

Head Coach:  Jo Malisani
Assistant Coach:  Gina Carbonatto
Pitching Coach:  Windy Thees
Team Manager:  Whitney Hollis
Physio:  Edwin Lam

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