Emeralds relish chance to tackle Japan All-Stars on home soil

RIVALS: Japan All-Stars captain Miho Mikami and Australian skipper Tahnee Lovering. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
RIVALS: Japan All-Stars captain Miho Mikami and Australian skipper Tahnee Lovering. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

AUSTRALIAN captain Tahnee Lovering says the Emeralds are relishing the rare opportunity to play on home soil in this long weekend’s series against the Japan All-Stars.

The two national squads are preparing for three days of action at Strathfieldsaye’s Club Court in what is being dubbed the “Bendigo Challenge”.

“We don’t have that many opportunities on our home soil for these sort of games… we’re normally venturing overseas, so to have the Japan All-Stars coming here where we will have home support is something we really value,” Lovering said on Friday.

“Japan is always a tough opponent. They have a great respect for the game of baseball and know how to play it hard, so we’ll have to go into every match expecting to fight for the full game.”

Japan is the No.1 ranked women’s baseball team in the world, while Australia’s Emeralds are No.4.

While there will be hot competition between Australia and Japan, so too will there be internally for the Emeralds.

The Emeralds squad of 39 has been split into two teams – Australia Green and Australia White – for the Bendigo Challenge.

The series of matches in Bendigo will be a key warm-up event for both countries ahead of the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Florida in August.

BIG WEEKEND AHEAD: Members of the Australian Emeralds and Japan All-Stars women's baseball teams with support staff and volunteers on Friday. Pictures: GLENN DANIELS

BIG WEEKEND AHEAD: Members of the Australian Emeralds and Japan All-Stars women's baseball teams with support staff and volunteers on Friday. Pictures: GLENN DANIELS

Of the Australian squad of 39 to play in Bendigo, only 20 will be selected to represent the Emeralds at the World Cup.

“I’m sure the rivalry is going to be as strong among the Australian players as it is against the Japanese,” said Lovering, who has been a member of the Emeralds since 2004.

ALL SMILES: Australian players Amy Collins and Bronwyn Gell at Friday's civic reception.

ALL SMILES: Australian players Amy Collins and Bronwyn Gell at Friday's civic reception.

“We’re all trying to earn spots in the World Cup squad, so it will be all about trying to play to the best of our ability this weekend.”

Lovering – who plays as a catcher – will be part of the Australia Green team, which hits off the carnival against Japan at 9am Saturday.

The Emeralds and Japan All-Stars were welcomed on Friday morning with a civic reception at Strathfieldsaye’s Club Court.

Lovering is striving to earn selection for what would be her seventh World Cup, having previously represented the Emeralds at the 2004 (4th), 2008 (4th), 2010 (2nd), 2012 (4th), 2014 (3rd) and 2016 (5th) events.

SET FOR ACTION: The Japan All-Stars are playing in Australia for the first time in 15 years this long weekend.

SET FOR ACTION: The Japan All-Stars are playing in Australia for the first time in 15 years this long weekend.

Entry to this weekend’s games is free.

Schedule for this weekend’s carnival:

Saturday – 9am: Australia Green v Japan. 11.30am: Japan v Australia White. 2pm: Australia Green v Australia White.

Sunday – 9am: Australia White v Japan. 11.30am: Japan v Australia Green. 2pm: Australia White v Australia Green.

Monday – 8.45am: Australia Green v Australia White. 10.30am – Winner of Australia Green/Australia White v Japan.