USA, Canada, Mexico advance to Women’s Baseball World Cup Finals

August 14th, 2023
Photo by James Motter / USA Baseball

Group A action from Thunder Bay, Ontario, has wrapped up, and the United States, Canada and Mexico are the first three teams that have qualified for the World Cup Finals next year. They will be joined by the top three teams from next month’s Group B taking place in Miyoshi City, Japan.

Before those begin, let’s break down what happened this past week in Canada:

1. United States (5-0)
The U.S. women came into this tournament on a mission, especially after finishing without a medal at the 2018 tournament -- the last one held due to the pandemic.

Rallying under the motto, “Rule the entire f-ing world,” USA was thoroughly dominant in all phases of play. Led by 2B Alex Hugo, named the Most Outstanding Player, the U.S. defeated rivals Canada, 23-0, before beating Hong Kong, 29-0. It then wrapped up the tourney with a 2-0 win against Mexico, going four straight games with a shutout to finish the week. 16-year-old Naomi Ryan (.455 AVG, 6 RBIs), lived up to the pressure put on her when manager Veronica Alvarez installed her in the three-hole: Ryan drove in both runs in the victory over Mexico on two doubles.

Starting pitcher 18-year-old Elise Berger (9 2/3 IP, 1.45 ERA) made two solid starts, looking like someone who can front the rotation for years to come, while veteran Meggie Meidlinger (2 IP, 0 R, 3 K) was lights-out in her two save opportunities.

2. Canada (4-1)

A new-look Canadian side since the last tournament, Canada may not have been the same dominant side we saw in 2018, though there was still plenty of talent up and down the roster. Aside from the heavy defeat against America, Canada had impressive wins against Mexico (9-1) and scored 7 runs in the last two innings to beat Australia (11-7).

Third baseman Zoe Hicks (6-for-9, 3 RBIs) and center fielder Sena Catterall (.455/.625/.727) had particularly impressive tournaments, while wildfire fighter/pitcher Alli Schroder looked solid on the mound.

3. Mexico (3-2)

There were plenty of questions surrounding Mexico before the tournament. After all, the women’s team -- which only began international play in 2019 -- had never played in the World Cup before. Suffice to say, Mexico announced itself in a major way.

The team showcased solid play on all sides of the ball, as Rosi del Castillo (9 IP, 1.56 ERA, 7 K), Flor Valerio (5 1/3 IP, 0 R, 2 K) and Adriana Palma (7 IP, 6.00 ERA, 4 K) all stepped up with impressive performances on the mound.

Denise Perez led the tournament with 11 RBIs, and Samaria Benitez’s highlight-reel defense was a notable bright spot.

4. Australia (2-3)
Ranked No. 8 ahead of the tournament, this will have to be considered a disappointment for the Emeralds. Of course, Australia held leads in two of the team’s losses and fell to the United States by a single run (3-2), so with a few different breaks, the Aussies could have easily found their way through to the next round.

Star two-way player Genevieve Beacom was dominant at times -- finishing tied-for-second in strikeouts with eight -- but she struggled with command and appeared to battle a finger issue in her second start against Canada. Claire O’Sullivan was dominant vs. Korea, and reliever Allison Steane had a fantastic tournament out of the bullpen (5 2/3 IP 1 R, 5 K).

With 14 new players on the roster, Australia has plenty of hope for the future, though it won’t play in a World Cup game until 2026. That may mean legend Shae Lillywhite -- playing in her ninth World Cup, the only woman to have pulled off that feat -- may have played her final international game. She came on as a defensive replacement for the final inning against Hong Kong on Sunday.

5. Hong Kong (1-4)
Hong Kong showed a lot of fight in this tournament, upsetting Korea on the first day after having recently had two double-digits losses to the nation at the most recent Asian Games. Hong Kong even battled back and held a brief lead over Mexico before going on to lose, 16-6.

Though it didn’t lead to many wins, center fielder Wing Hin Ng was a standout at the tournament. Ng tied for the lead in stolen bases (4), posted a .842 OPS and made one of the most outstanding catches when she ran into the wall to take away an extra-base hit:

6. Korea (0-5)
A difficult tourney for Korea, which never looked all that competitive against some of the higher-ranked teams. Center fielder Nuri Shin played well, hitting .273/.455/.429 with a triple and three RBIs.

Most Outstanding Player: Alex Hugo

Add another trophy to the mantle, with Hugo more than earning the official award from the WBSC. The United States 2B -- who won MVP and USA Baseball Player Sportswoman of the Year awards after the 2019 Pan-American Championships -- is a true complete player. Hugo sprays line drives from foul line to foul line, is an aggressive but smart baserunner, showcases solid defense and is a consummate team leader out on the field.

All-Star Team
Since the WBSC doesn’t award All-Star teams at World Cup group stages, I decided I may as well award my own All-Star squad. There were plenty of great players at every position making this a difficult selection process -- honestly, you could put a USA player at every position without being overly reverential of the tourney winners -- but here is who I chose:

C: Denae Benites - USA
1B: Abbey McLellan - AUS
2B: Alex Hugo - USA
SS: Alexane Fournier - CAN
3B: Ashton Lansdell - USA
OF: Naomi Ryan - USA
OF: Sena Catterall - CAN
OF: Wing Hin Ng - HK
DH: Denise Perez - MEX
SP: Elise Berger - USA
SP: Rosi del Castillo - MEX
SP: Jillian Albayati - USA
RP: Meggie Meidlinger - USA
RP: Flor Valerio - MEX
RP: Allison Steane - AUS