For NAFA World Series of Softball
O’LEARY – The O’Leary-based Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles are looking to soar to new heights.
Having won the Eastern Canadian intermediate C men’s fastpitch championship the last three years, the Eagles are in the final stages of preparation for a major international tournament. The Eagles leave on Tuesday for Quad City, Iowa, for the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series of Softball.
“We are ready to go,” said Eagles coach Eric Gavin. “The boys have been working extremely hard in preparation for the NAFA event.”
AA Majors Division
The Eagles will be among close to 30 teams from around the world taking part, and are entered in the AA Majors Division.
Eagles infielder Darcy Harris concedes the AA Major Division is probably a step or two up for the three-time Eastern Canadian intermediate champions, but he said the classification is based on the calibre of their ace pitcher, Mitch Hardy. Since Hardy is ranked as a AA major pitcher, that is the division into which the Eagles have been slotted.
And with that in mind, Harris said, Hardy will be a workhorse.
“He’s already been told he can pitch as many innings as he wishes,” confirmed Harris, who admits the Eagles have not played as many games as they would have liked this year as the Maritime league has fizzled.
The Eagles won a recent tournament in Charlottetown, however, and they are taking those results to Iowa as both motivation and a confidence-builder, Harris revealed.
“We’re very excited for it,” Harris said of the prestigious tournament.
The Eagles open play with two games on Thursday against teams from Missouri and Washington. The early results will decide the Eagles’ seeding for the playoff round.
Harris expects Hardy to pitch both games, and suggested that if the Eagles can crank out three or four runs a game they should be able to put Hardy in a good position to win.
Friday, however, could be more challenging as, depending on how the team performs, they could play as many as three games that day. Harris admits that might be a little much for one pitcher to handle.
Luckily, the Eagles can rely on three other pitchers – Jamie Betts, who also plays infield for the Eagles, and pick-ups Steve Bishop and Chris Craig from the Charlottetown Fawcetts.
Other commitments are keeping Eagles pitcher Steve Noonan and catcher-infielder Jordan Knox out of the tournament.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” said Gavin. “Once we get to the playoffs we will re-evaluate our goals, but I think in the back of everyone’s mind is to win it all.
“We are a very competitive club and we love to win, but we want to take it one step at a time.”
The Eagles have also picked up the Fawcetts’ Dustan Jones. Harris describes Jones as smart, quick and has the ability to catch. He can also be called upon for either the infield or outfield.
The catching duties for the tournament will be largely handled by Troy Ellsworth and Ryan Perry.
John Ellsworth, Mike MacIsaac, Jesse MacIntyre, Harris, Jones and Betts will share infield duties. Jason Smallman, Curtis Reilly, Jordan Costello and Joel Rodgerson will patrol the outfield.
A question mark for the tournament is outfielder Jeff Ellsworth, who will miss at least the start of the tournament while coaching the P.E.I. under 18 girls at the Canadian championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
At least four members of the Eagles’ roster have some familiarity with Quad Cities. Hardy, Craig and Jeff Ellsworth have played ball there before, and MacIsaac has played hockey there against the hometown Mallards.
Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles’ roster for NAFA World Series of Softball:
P - Mitch Hardy
P/OF - Steve Bishop
P/IF - Chris Craig
P/IF/OF - Jamie Betts
C - Troy Ellsworth
1b/C - Ryan Perry
2b - John Ellsworth
2b/CF - Mike MacIsaac
SS - Jesse MacIntyre
IF/OF - Dustan Jones
3b/1b - Darcy Harris
LF - Curtis Reilly
OF - Jordan Costello
OF - Joel Rodgerson
OF/DP - Jason Smallman
OF - Jeff Ellsworth
Coach - Eric Gavin