O’LEARY -- No matter who wins the best-of-three senior men’s P.E.I. provincial softball championship which gets underway Wednesday evening in O’Leary, representatives of both teams agree the series has the potential to rebuild the sport in the province.
Mark Arsenault from the Charlottetown Fawcetts and Jeff Ellsworth from the O’Leary Eagles are believed to be the only players in the series who were also on the field the last time there was a provincial championship series 12 years ago.
“It’s just exciting to have that provincial again,” said Arsenault, the Fawcetts’ first baseman. “It will be interesting ball. It will be high intensity.”
Curtis Reilly, the Eagles’ left fielder, played with the Fawcetts at nationals last year and is looking forward to facing them in the provincial final. “They’re a great bunch of guys,” he acknowledged.
Great or not, Reilly and his Eagles teammates are eager to claim the championship trophy and suggested their ace pitcher, Mitch Hardy, could be the difference in the tournament. Hardy and Eagles teammate Jeff Ellsworth are just back from a gold medal permormance at the men's world fastpitch championships.
The Eagles host the Fawcetts at 6 p.m. on Ellis Field in O’Leary and the Fawcetts play host on Thursday at the same time on City Diamond. A third game, if necessary – and both teams think it will be – will be played in O’Leary Friday at 6 p.m.
The championship was going to be a best-of-five affair but it got scaled back on Tuesday because the Fawcetts are pulling out Saturday for the National championships in Stratford, Ontario. Hardy is playing with the Fawcetts in that tournament.
The key for us when we get to nationals is get some good pitching, play good defence and get the ball in play. That won’t change against the Eagles. With Mitchell (Hardy) and Jeff (Ellsworth) and the athletes they have on that team, they are just like playing a team at nationals. We will go in with the same mindset going into next week as we will with the Eagles this week Fawcetts first baseman Mark Arsenault in acknowledging the strength of their O'Leary opponents
“Mitch is a guy, if you give him the ball, he’ll enter the game and he seems to get the job done, and he loves these settings when it’s the finals or it’s the play-off. He’ll be key for us, without question,” Reilly offered.
Arsenault said the Fawcetts have that same respect for him. That’s why they’ve signed him up to play for them at Nationals.
The Fawcetts, however, have some strong pitchers of their own, including Steve Langley and Nova Scotian Randy Frame.
“The key for us when we get to nationals is get some good pitching, play good defence and get the ball in play,” said Arsenault. “That won’t change against the Eagles. With Mitchell and Jeff and the athletes they have on that team, they are just like playing a team at nationals. We will go in with the same mindset going into next week as we will with the Eagles this week.”
Reilly praised Arsenault’s hitting ability. “That’s what he does. He smashes balls out of the park,” he noted. Another strong hitter for the Fawcetts, he said, is Chris Craig. The Eagles will add both Arsenault and Craig on their roster when they host the Eastern Canadian championship two weeks later.
As for the Eagles, Reilly said their team can counter in the provincials with the bats of Team Canada captain Jeff Ellsworth, Troy Ellsworth, Darcy Harris, Mark Quinn and Jason Smallman. “We’ve got a pretty full squad,” he stressed.