BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
Botswana Softball Association (BSA) says there were lots of positives to pick from the just ended Mens’ Softball World Championships which were held in the Czech Republic.
Despite having aimed for a top 8 finish at the championships, a youthful Botswana squad finished 14th overall.
“As an association, we were aiming for a Top 8 finish, to match or better our last position. We remain positive even though we did not achieve the desired result,” BSA Public Relation Officer Kelebogile Seitei opined.
After a slow start that saw the team suffer its heaviest loss against the championship’s eventual winners Argentina, Botswana was able to bounce back and win two matches.
After the first 8 ÔÇô 0 drubbing by Argentina in the first game, the local lads beat Philippines 3 ÔÇô 0 to register their first victory.
However, successive losses against Cuba, New Zealand and Mexico derailed Botswana’s ambitions for a Top 8 finish.
Their hopes for a better finish were then restored when they beat hosts Czech Republic 4 ÔÇô 2, only for a 3- 0 loss to eventual finalists Japan to dash all their dreams.
“The team started poorly but improved with the tournament and managed two wins while playing another two highly contested games,” she said.
Seitei, who was the team’s Chef de Mission went on to explain that the team ‘lost most of the games due to low game management’ as well as inconsistent hitting.
“This can be fixed by putting our players in more high pressure situations and getting them to learn how to manage the game collectively,” said Seitei.
On the team’s final position in the standings, the BSA PRO said it does not necessarily reflect Botswana’s actual performances at the games.
“The final tournament standings do not in any way reflect the team’s performance. Look at Group A. Most of the teams had more wins than Group B, yet, in the final standings, some group B teams were above those in Group A. The structure adopted by WBSC this time around unfortunately positioned teams according to how they finished in their group,” she said.
On the positive side, Seitei said considering that the team had a lot of youngsters in its midst bodes well for the future.
“We introduced a whole lot more youngsters to the team and gave them exposure. With the change in age groups from under 19 to under 18 and under 23, we are confident we have a solid base for the Under 23 competitions,” she said.
Among others, Seitei noted that the team had some young players who competed and finished 9th at the Michigan 2016 Junior Men World Championships in the likes of Pamidzani Madzulugwa, Tshepo Ditiro, Gideon Puakaa, Samuel Kunyalala and Ofentse Ketshogile.
Going forward, she said it will be important for Botswana to not only retain the youngsters but to also continue developing them with an eye on the future.
“I want to also emphasize the importance of development and keeping athletes playing together and moving through all the development stages,” the BSA PRO explained.
“To give you an example of the two teams that played the finals, Argentina were the U19 champions in 2012 and Japan was the winners in the same age category championships in 2016.”
She continued; “It is not an overnight process. It can only be achieved through proper structures and consistent international competition. We only test our mettle against South Africa but other teams are engaged in intercontinental competitions throughout the year which we cannot afford to take part in.”
“We battle to secure funds funds for preparation so we are still worlds apart from the teams that finish in medal positions. We are still relying on sheer talent and hard work and where we exhaust that mental fitness, we do not have experience at the highest stage that can carry us through,” she concluded.