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Bite to make an impact at WBC
03/07/2017 8:26 PM ET
Team Australia in all of its glory ahead of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, Japan.
Team Australia in all of its glory ahead of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, Japan. (Team Australia Baseball)

Last night, Loek van Mil pitched the ninth inning for Netherlands as they shut out Pool A hosts, Korea, 5-0 while Japan claimed a thrilling 11-6 win over Cuba in Pool B as the World Baseball Classic kicked into gear.

Tonight, Adelaide Bite stars Matt Williams, Stefan Welch and Mitch Dening, plus former Bite pitchers and South Aussies Josh Tols and Dushan Ruzic, get their campaign started for Australia against Japan.

After a qualifying tournament on home soil last year, a thrilling ABL season, and a warm-up camp, the WBC is a chance for our players to do what they do best.

I'm excited to get into the games and I'm looking forward to starting the matches," Williams said.

"There's been a fairly long build up with a lot of games so you're just looking forward to getting on the field for game one."

Australia's form heading into the Classic has been full of mixed results, but Dening says it has been crucial in preparing the side for the WBC.

"Having the Korean camp was good for us. We haven't had that before so when the first game comes we'll be ready," he said.

Much of the Australian team has benefited from playing together, or against each other, throughout the ABL season, and Williams says the WBC is more like a reunion for the whole team, rather than an introduction.

"A lot of the guys have played together in past Australia teams, somewhere along the line, and the ABL and obviously it is a tight knit group in the Australian baseball circle. It's been smooth and it's been more like a reunion than getting to know each other," he said.

Arguably, we may see a changing of the guard in the Australian side as the WBC gives way to Olympic Qualifying, and for the likes of Dening their role has certainly changed since their debut. From rookie to veteran, the outfielder will be a leader on and off the field.

"When I was a rookie I was 19 years old and I was playing with guys I looked up to. This is probably my eighth or ninth year playing in the national team so I think I've moved into the leadership role," Dening said.

 "I've been on this team for so long that there's only a few of us left like Hughesy, Harman, Welch & Beresford so there is a younger team. I feel like I've stepped into the leadership role."

Bite fans can expect an exciting opening encounter as Japan brings hot hitting and clinical pitching, while Australia's key to success lies in pitching. Dening believes a tight game is Australia's best chance for victory.

"We have to play our perfect baseball," Dening said.

"We saw it the other night; Japanese pitching is perfect and we have to get pitches early in the count to hit because with two strikes they're really, really good. If we're going to beat Japan we're going to have to beat them 1-0 or 2-1, and play the best we can."

In a low scoring encounter, it will be Australia's pitching which can stand tall and Williams supports Dening by praising the pitching stocks.

"I think our pitching is going to be our strength. It's our responsibility to keep the runs down and give the batters a chance," he said.

"With the mix we have there's a lot of experience - not necessarily big league experience, but we've got a lot of guys who have played at a high level around the world."

All three of Australia's games are live on ESPN with all the action against Japan starting from 8.30PM. Join the Bite at Sportys Bar & Arena at the Arkaba Hotel for a watch party!

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.