Japan, Chinese Taipei, Venezuela to join USA at Women's World Cup Finals next year

September 18th, 2023

Coming a few weeks after the United States, Canada and Mexico punched their tickets to next year's WBSC Women's Baseball World Cup finals, Group B finished over the weekend in Miyoshi City, Japan, and there's no surprise at the top of the standings. As expected, No. 1 ranked Japan -- the reigning champion of the last six Women's Baseball World Cups -- came out on top once again, finishing 5-0 in group play. While they were dominant, they weren't quite the overpowering force they have been historically: For the first time since Sept. 7, 2016, they gave up more than one run in a game and even had to come from behind to beat Puerto Rico.

Joining them at the finals next year will be No. 2 Chinese Taipei (4-1) and No. 5 Venezuela (3-2).

Let's break down the full group:

1. Japan: 5-0

There was a brief scare for Madonna Japan, who had to come back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Puerto Rico. Instead, the bats came alive and Japan has yet to lose a World Cup game since 2012. Japan shouldn't have too many doubts after their undefeated run through the group stage, though: The team's roster is so deep that veteran star Ayami Sato was used out of the bullpen this time around, pitching 4 shutout innings in a relief role, as Kana Onodera took on the team's most difficult starts. Facing Puerto Rico and Chinese Taipei, Onodera pitched two complete games (tournament games are 7 innings long), giving up two runs and striking out 18. 

First baseman Yuki Kawabata led the way offensively with a .615/.643/.927 batting line, complete with two triples and seven RBIs.  

"This is the fifth World Cup I participated in," Kawabata told the WBSC after the victory against Chinese Taipei. "The level of the play is much higher than before, especially batting. I also saw many nice defensive plays. It was not easy to score. So I should be prepared for high-level competition next year in Canada."

2. Chinese Taipei (4-1)

The world's No. 2 team still finished second in the group thanks to having to play Japan. Taipei kept it close against Japan, losing 2-0, which should give them plenty of hope going into the finals next year as the team had little issue with the rest of the group. Shortstop Yu-Ying Hsieh was marvelous at the plate, knocking out a remarkable four triples during the tournament while playing jaw-dropping defense.

Two-way star Chiao-Yun Huang did a little of everything, too: Splitting time between first base, right field, and the pitcher's mound, Huang pitched seven shutout innings and picked up 7 hits and 3 RBIs.

3. Venezuela (3-2) 

The fifth-place finishers at the last World Cup in 2018 (the pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament) have qualified again -- thanks in large part to the tournament's most outstanding player, Frandelis Garcia. Garcia pitched 13 innings, struck out 13 and -- most importantly -- she pitched a complete-game shutout against fourth-place Puerto Rico to guarantee Venezuela a spot at next year's tournament.

Of course, Venezuela would never have that chance if not for beating Cuba, 8-7, thanks to Srishna Arciniega's game-winning bunt in the bottom of the eighth. Mariana Natera threw 112 pitches and went the distance for the victory.

4. Puerto Rico (2-3)

A disappointing tournament for Puerto Rico, which has yet to advance out of the group stage in any Women's Baseball World Cup. (They went 3-2 in 2018 and failed to advance.) Luz Danella Feliciano Ramos and Lisandro Berrios-Lopez tied for the tournament lead with 8 RBIs each and Janiliz Rivera Cruz looked solid in her two starts (13 IP, 4 K, 6 ER.) 

5. Cuba (1-4)

Everything could have changed for Cuba had they managed to upset Venezuela in that nail-biting finish. Yanet Cruz went the distance in that one, matching Natera pitch-for-pitch, until the fateful, game-winning bunt. Catcher Yordanka Rodríguez León, a veteran on Team Cuba since 2012, was solid at the dish: León went 5-for-11 with 2 RBIs.  

6. France (0-5)

While the standings may not show it, this was an impressive debut for France, which was playing in its first ever Women's Baseball World Cup. Ambre Brouard and Amina Taleb led the way with six hits apiece on offense, but the team will need to improve its pitching at the next tournament: The staff combined to strike out just three hitters.