This is part II of our hitting series leading up to the XVI WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship 2019 in Prague/Havlicku Brod, Czech Republic. In part I we introduced you to Israel Nukunuku, our resident expert for the tournament. Better known as Izzy, he selected for us hitters from his pick for top 4 this tournament.
In part I we explored Izzy’s CV as well as the lineup cards for Australia and Canada. We also dove into the potential roster spots for South America’s tournament teams. Today we’re looking at his picks for Japan, New Zealand and individuals across the European rosters.
Ranked #3 in the world right now Japan’s heavy hitters, according to Izzy, are Hikaru Matsuda and Yusuke Morita. Izzy is a fan of Matsuda’s signature hand twist between pitches. We couldn’t find it captured on film for you so it’s something to look forward to during the livestream.
During the 2017 tournament Matsuda made the leader board with 11 RBIs. He also had 7 runs off 7 hits, including 2 doubles, a triple and 2 homeruns. Hikaru took 17 total bases and had a tournament average of .303 with a ridiculous .739 slugging percentage. He was walked just twice but also swung away 5 additional opportunities. Look for big results when Matsuda makes contact in 2019.
Morita impressed our expert during last year’s Interncontinental Cup and again during the TAB Challenge earlier this season. In 2017, Yusuke also had 7 runs off 7 hits and two doubles as well as a homerun. He batted in just 4, finishing the tournament with a .259 average after striking out half a dozen times. During the Challenge earlier this year Morita had 2 runs off 3 hits with 2 RBIs over 7 at bats.
You should also keep your eye on outfielder Seii Kuroiwa. During the 2018 Intercontinental Cup he posted a .438 average over 6 games and 16 at bats. He had 2 runs off 7 hits and 4 RBIs. In 2019, during the TAB Challenge, over 13 at bats, Seii had 5 runs off 6 hits and 3 RBIs while striking out 3 times.
Last on the tops list to explore is #1 ranked New Zealand. No surprises here but quite a few of their sluggers were present on the leaders board for the last world tournament.
Tyron Bartorillo and Kallan Compain each had 5 homeruns. Thomas Enoka led the tournament in RBIs with 15 and runs with 13 over his 31 at bats. Campbell Enoka had 13 hits and Nathan Nukunuku had 2 triples and 11 walks.
You’ll notice some familiar names. According to our expert Izzy Nukunuku, brother to the Black Sox team captain Nathan, it is the Enoka brothers you want to keep an eye on and the stats bare that out. There are three on the 2019 national team roster. Izzy says to be on the lookout for Thomas and his older brother Ben.
This will be Thomas’ 2nd World tournament but his first with New Zealand. He pitched for his native Somoa in 2013’s event and will be in the outfield for New Zealand in 2019. Ben missed playing in the 2017 championship due to injury but was on 2013 and 2017 bench during the championships.
At the 2018 Intercontinental Cup it was Jerome Raemaki who had the best showing for New Zealand. Over 6 games he hit .500 with 18 at bats that resulted in 4 runs off a tournament leading 9 hits. He had 4 RBIs a double and 2 homeruns.
When New Zealand and team Europe faced off later that same month it was Ben Enoka making his presence known. Now that he’s healthy again, his is a name you should get used to hearing. The centerfielder went 4/4 including a homerun with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. During the TAB Challenge earlier this year Ben had 5 runs off 7 hits with 5 RBIs over 12 at bats.
Looking at the host continent Izzy picked a player from each team to keep on your radar. With #7 ranked, and host team, the Czech Republic, Vaclav Svoboda is your top bat. Izzy describes him as, “a class above all European hitters.” He directed us toward Svoboda’s 2018 record against New Zealand during the friendly between Team Europe and the Black Sox. The 2nd baseman went 4/5 with 2 runs including a dinger and 2 RBIs. He struck out once and stole 2 and was the overall tournament leader for Team Europe at the plate. Our expert points out that he was the only European to get multiple hits for the team.
Vaclav Svoboda photo by Grega Valancic
On Denmark’s (#11) roster it is the brothers Fredrik and Valdemar Terklesen Izzy has his eye on. Valdemar was also on that Team Europe bench meaning he has already faced the top contender’s recent pitching staff. It is Daniel Julenon however that he calls the “true power hitter” for the Danish.
Lastly we turn to the bench of #19, The Netherlands. Impressed by their 2018 season, where they beat all three top teams from Europe, Izzy is looking at Enrique Javier. He says, while the whole team seemed to strings together hits, Javier had great form.
Of course these are all predictions based on past rosters. At the moment, not all teams have finalized their slots for this year’s tournament. We’ll report more on that in the weeks to come. Until then, you now have your scouting chart pre-filled.