Showcasing some of the best female baseball players the world has to offer, the eighth Women's Baseball World Cup will get underway Wednesday at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera, Fla., marking the first time the biennial event has been held in the United States.
This year's tournament, which includes 12 teams and will have a record 50 games played from Aug. 22-31, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a fictionalized version that was featured in the 1992 film "A League of Their Own."
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The 30-game Opening Round will be played in a round-robin style from Thursday to Sunday before six teams -- three from Group A and three from Group B -- move on to the 18-game Super Round, which is scheduled for Aug. 28-30. The first 3 teams in each group will play in the Super Round. The 4 teams to play in the Finals will be determined based upon the results of First Round between three qualified teams as well as the Super Round games (2 games from the First Round and 3 games of the Super Round).
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The teams with the two best records in the Super Round will face each other in the Finals on Aug. 31, with the third- and fourth-best Super Round teams playing the third-place game on the same day in the Bronze Medal Game.
For the Consolation Round, the bottom three teams from each group after the First Round will play all. The ranking among the six teams will be determined based on the results of the First Round between the three teams that went to the Consolation Rounds, as well as the Consolation Round games.
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The United States, which defeated Japan to win each of the first two Women's Baseball World Cups (2004 and '06), is part of Group A with Venezuela, Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico.
Attempting to win its sixth straight title, Japan will start out in Group B, along with 2016 runner-up Canada, Australia, Cuba, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic, which is playing in the tournament for the first time.
Japan's roster is headlined by pitcher Ayami Sato, who won Women's Baseball World Cup MVP honors in 2014 and '16, and was ranked as the top female player in the world by "Baseball America" in 2017.
The United States returns 11 players from the team that won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, including pitcher Marti Sementelli, pitcher Stacy Piagno, infielder Jade Gortarez, catcher Anna Kimbrell and infielder Malaika Underwood. Underwood will be playing in her ninth international event, the most ever for any representative -- male or female -- in USA Baseball history.
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Along with fellow Team USA member Kelsie Whitmore, Piagno was signed by the Sonoma Stompers in 2016, making them the first professional baseball team since the 1950s to have women take the field. Kimbrell later joined the Stompers as well.
Meanwhile, the scope of the Women's Baseball World Cup continues to grow. According to wbwc.wbsc.org, the 2016 tournament "registered a broadcast reach of approximately 100 million households and generated an online viewership from 198 countries and territories."
There should be even more accessibility in 2018, as every game will be produced and available to global audiences for the first time ever as part of a host broadcasting agreement between the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).