Heading into Eastern Canadian fastpitch ch’ship tournament
O’LEARY – As two-time defending champions, the host O’Leary Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles go into this weekend’s Eastern Canadian men’s intermediate C fastpitch championship tournament as one of the teams to beat.
Third baseban Darcy Harris gets set as O'Leary Eagles ace, Mitch Hardy delivers a pitch during the recent P.E.I. senior men's fast pitch championship series. The Eagles, who won the provincial championship, are hosting the Eastern Canadian Intermediate C championship tournament this weekend on O'Leary's Ellis and Rink Fields.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
The Eagles certainly have had their share of success this year, winning two of the four Maritime Fastball League tournaments they entered, and prevailing in a best-of-three Island fastpitch championship series with the Charlottetown Fawcetts.
Three players on the roster experienced success internationally this year, with outfielder Curtis Reilly winning gold at the world masters tournament in Italy, and pitcher Mitch Hardy and outfielder Jeff Ellsworth playing on the American Softball Association (ASA) and International Softball Congress (ISC) championship-winning teams.
Hardy anchors the Eagles’ pitching staff, but player-coach Jeff Ellsworth stressed they can’t ride him all weekend. He said the Eagles will also be handing the ball to Jamie Betts, who otherwise sees duty at second base, and to catcher Troy Ellsworth. Betts and Ryan Perry will fill in behind the plate.
“Our strength is we’ve been playing together for the last six or seven years,” assessed the player-coach. “Chemistry-wise, we’re right up there.”
The Eagles, Jeff Ellsworth pointed out, know what it takes to win.
“We’ve played in games where we’ve been behind and came back and won; we’ve been in games that were tied late and were able to pull it out,” he said. “We have the experience.
“We’re actually a decent young team. There are only a few of us who are up past 35. But, for a young team, we are very experienced.”
The Eagles are going with the same roster they had for the provincial final, minus Richard MacKinnon and pitcher Steven Noonan.
MacKinnon will be suiting up for the Charlottetown Cardinals, and Noonan is out of province at his son’s baseball championship. The team will still be without the services of Jordan Knox, who is playing professional hockey in Hungary.
“At this level here, at the Eastern Canadians, we’ve seen in the past couple of years, if you make errors it’s going to hurt you; it’s going to cost you,” said Jeff Ellsworth. “(You) can’t afford to make any mistakes.
“Six games of ball in 2 1/2 days, it’s a lot, so, hopefully, we are going to stay injury-free, because we’re going into it with a fairly small roster.”
Jeff Ellsworth stressed the Eagles are loaded with experience, and have shown great improvement in the past couple of years in responding to a higher calibre of pitching.
He is expecting many well-played and exciting games.
He noted New Brunswick’s Taymouth Tigers will be comprised heavily of players who attended the Canadian senior men’s championship the previous two years. Sydney, N.S., he said, is bringing hard-throwing pitcher Morley Googoo, and Ontario is always strong.
“No doubt, it’s going to be good ball, for sure,” Jeff Ellsworth assessed.