Andrew Kirkpatrick. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Just two things remain in the Australian Steelers' preparation - fine-tuning their defence and finding out whether their hitting is as good as coach Bob Harrow thinks it is.
With less than a week before the Aussies begin their world championship defence, the Steelers will play four games against Japan at Hawker International Softball Centre on Sunday and Monday.
Then the team will leave for New Zealand on Wednesday and play its first game of the world championships against the US on Friday.
Not surprisingly, Harrow was confident in his team's pitching.
He has the two best pitchers in the world at his disposal - Canberra's Adam Folkard and Andrew Kirkpatrick.
Harrow just wants to make sure the fielders all do their jobs to back up the duo.
He has confidence in his hitters, with Canberra's Michael Tanner leading them off.
Harrow said Joel Southam, Nick Shailes and the ACT's Zenon Winters were some of the best players in the world with a bat in their hand.
Kirkpatrick is also a world-class competitor with the bat.
''We know we have the pitching … it's just if we can get the young newcomers blended in with the veterans,'' Harrow told The Canberra Times on Friday.
''We've got a faster team than last time, we've got as good or better hitters … it's just now if we can get our defence together … and seeing if our hitting is as good as I think it is.''
The Japan games are the final hit-out before the title defence begins, making it a crucial part of the Steelers' preparation.
Harrow said the Japanese were a world-class team in their own right, having finished sixth at the last worlds in 2009.
''They're a world powerhouse, they're up there with us; they play a different style of game,'' he said.
''It's very important, plus they've got good pitching, so it's quite important we play them and see what level we're at - we need to be a lot sharper on defence because they're so quick and can execute.''
AUSTRALIA v JAPAN
At Hawker International Softball Centre.
Saturday: Game 1 at 2pm, game 2 at 2pm; Sunday: Game 3 at 11am, game 4 at 1.30pm.