CARY, N.C. -- On Monday afternoon, USA Baseball announced its final 20-player roster for the USA Women's National Team ahead of the 2018 World Baseball Softball Confederation Women's Baseball World Cup.
The selection comes on the heels of the Women's National Team Trials, which saw 40 players compete for the honor of representing the United States. Before that, 106 players participated in the Women's National Open from June 9-11 before the 40 players were selected for the week-long team trials.
With the final 20 cuts now in the books, the players can look ahead to the World Cup, held in Viera, Fla., from Aug. 22-31. It is the first time the event has been held in the United States.
The national team hopes to have its best showing since 2006, the last time the United States won gold. Overall, the country has emerged victorious twice, the other coming in '04 during the inaugural tournament.
But before competing for ultimate glory, the team will showcase its skills through exhibition games in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., from Aug. 16-20.
It will be manager Matt Weagle's first time at the helm of the team, but he has plenty of experience in coaching to help him, having served as pitching coach for the national team from 2014-16 and as field coordinator in '17 for the Women's National Team Development Program.
Weagle brought back 14 veteran players, 11 of whom played for the team that won gold at the 2015 Pan American Games, to pair with six fresh faces. The manager is pleased with the mix of talent.
"I think we have a really good blend of veterans and newcomers," Weagle said. "I think it's important that they understand what playing for USA is all about, and our veterans really grasp that and the meaning of it. Not to say that the new ones won't, but to have that veteran leadership in any sport is really helpful, especially in this case. There is a lot of pressure on a lot of these girls."
Some of that veteran leadership will come from players like Tamara Holmes, Malaika Underwood and Marti Sementelli. Holmes and Underwood both played on the 2006 team that took home gold.
This marks Underwood's ninth time competing for the national team -- extending her streak of most appearances on the roster for both men and women. In fact, the infielder has made every roster since joining the team in 2006.
Underwood is optimistic for the team's chances to win gold and hopes to lead through her actions in helping other members of the ballclub.
"You know, I try to lead by example," Underwood said. "So ultimately, I'm going to do everything I can to be as ready as possible for the World Cup. I think there's a great core group of players who are coming back, who have experience in the World Cup in different years and different situations and in playing in different countries."
Sementelli, a right-handed pitcher and member of the national team since 2008, thinks having the World Cup in the United States for the first time could be a great opportunity to help women's baseball grow.
"We've never really gotten a chance to show ourselves off to the United States and actually show that we have a team and play in front of our friends and family," Sementelli said.
"So I think it means a lot to be able to host that on the highest stage possible and show the world that girls can play baseball. I think it's really important that everyone's going to be able to come out at that international level. It's a new stepping stone for us."
While none of the newcomers have represented the United States in this particular event before, some are still familiar to the national team, including Emily Tsujikawa, who was part of the 2017 development program.
Weagle and his assistant coaches will play a large role in easing the transition for the newcomers. The manager is joined on his staff by Veronica Alvarez, a five-time national team member as a player. It is Alvarez's first stint with the national program as a coach.
Cody Kauffman and Ernie May make up the other two new faces on the staff, and both have history working with Weagle at the 2017 development program. Kauffman has been an assistant coach for the Franklin Pierce University baseball team the past three years, and May has served as the head baseball coach at Dean College for two seasons.
Below is a full breakdown of the Women's National Team roster in its quest to bring home gold on United States soil for the first time.
2018 Women's National Team Roster:
Ila Borders, LHP, Los Angeles
Samantha Cobb, OF/RHP, Garland, Texas
Michelle Cobb, IF/RHP, Wenatchee, Wash.
Shelby Estocado, OF/IF, Las Vegas
Amanda Gianelloni, IF, Napoleonville, La.
Brittany Gomez, OF, New Braunfels, Texas
Jade Gortarez, IF/RHP, Riverside, Calif.
AJ Hamilton, C/OF, Tallahassee, Fla.
Tamara Holmes, OF, Albany, Calif.
Alex Hugo, IF/OF, Olathe, Kan.
Anna Kimbrell, C, Fort Mill, S.C.
Kylee Lahners, IF, Laguna Hills, Calif.
Ashton Lansdell, IF/RHP, Marietta, Ga.
Meggie Meidlinger, RHP, Sterling, Va.
Stacy Piagno, RHP, St. Augustine, Fla.
Brittany Schutte, RHP/IF, Gainesville, Fla.
Marti Sementelli, RHP, Newton, Mass.
Emily Tsujikawa, RHP/IF, Redmond, Wash.
Malaika Underwood, IF, San Diego
Kelsie Whitmore, OF/RHP, Temecula, Calif.