O'LEARY, P.E.I. – There’ll be no easing into things today for the Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles.
The O’Leary-based squad opens the Canadian senior men’s fast pitch championship against Newfoundland and Labrador’s Galway Hitmen, whose core won five straight national titles until last year and many are perennial national team members.
While the Eagles have guys with experience at the Canadian championship like outfielder Jeff Ellsworth and pitcher Mitch Hardy, others like Morgan Murphy, Jason Smallman and Mike MacIsaac and Jordan Costello will be seeing their first action.
“We’re all pretty excited to get over there for our first time and kind of get a game under our belt and settle in a little bit,” Murphy said Tuesday. “I know the crowds over there will be crazy, but there’s a lot of big-name guys like Jeff Ellsworth (and others) who will keep us straight and focused.”
While the Eagles haven’t been to nationals as a group, they have a couple of trips to the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series under their belt and played good competition at the Spudchuckers tournament in O’Leary, as well as in New Brunswick events in Miramichi and Fredericton.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit (group),” Murphy said. “We’ve played a lot of years together. We’ve played in big tournaments before like NAFA . . . so hopefully that will play a factor in keeping the nerves down a little bit.”
The squad added left-handed pitcher Brady Woods and catcher/third baseman Peter Reimer from Winnipeg for the tournament. Since Prince Edward Island was short on players due to a wedding this weekend, Softball Canada granted the team permission to add shortstop Brett Young and left-handed pitcher Jacob Ebbett from the Taymouth Tigers in New Brunswick.
Woods, who is on Softball Canada’s 40-man national team player pool, is expected to front the rotation with Hardy and give them a left-right tandem to chuck at opponents.
“It’s a good one-two punch,” Murphy said. “It’s going to be huge to have Brady.
“Mitch is great, and he’ll win us ball games, for sure, but it’s nice to have a guy from the other side who can definitely help out as well.”
Offensively, Ellsworth will be a key part of the lineup along with Reimer and leadoff man MacIsaac.
Capitalizing on their chances will be key for the Eagles to be successful.
“You’re not going to get too many in one quick round robin,” Murphy said. “We’re going to get them, I think we’re just going to have to take advantage of it and our pitchers will have to win us a few games, like I know they can.”
The P.E.I. squad has a number of what Murphy called “gritty hitters” who will have quality at-bats, but he also acknowledged a bunt here or there will likely be employed by his father, Paul, who is coaching.
“He likes to play some small ball,” Murphy said. “I’m assuming if we’re going to have any success this week, we’re going to have to get a couple runs off a bunt.”
While playing at a Canadian senior men’s tournament will be new for some of the Eagles, there will be familiarity with many of the players having played at the St. Croix, N.S., facility numerous times during their careers.
“It’s always nice to kind play on a field you've seen before,” Murphy said. “I think it’s kind of like playing in a hockey rink that you’ve always been in. it’s just something feels right. . .
“It’ll make us feel a little more at home.”
Murphy said the team wouldn’t have been able to attend the tournament without its title sponsor, jersey sponsors and all those who supported their fundraising activities.
A look at the Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles roster for the 2018 Canadian senior men’s fast pitch championship.
10 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Newfoundland and Labrador.
2 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Alberta.
8:30 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Ontario Two.
7 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Ontario One.
2 p.m. - P.E.I. vs. Nova Scotia.
9 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Host.
When – Today to Sunday.
Where – St. Croix, N.S., between Bedford and Windsor, N.S.
Who – Alberta (Grande Prairie Pirates), British Columbia (Sooke Loggers), Host (East Hants Shooters Bar & Grill Mastodons), Newfoundland and Labrador (Galway Hitmen), Nova Scotia (Guysborough Transfer Broadhorns), Ontario One (Elmira Expos), Ontario Two (Wiarton Nationals), P.E.I. (Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles), Saskatchewan One (Saskatoon Angels) and Saskatchewan Two (Bulyea Rustlers).
Format – A 10-team tournament where each team plays six games. The top eight teams make the playoffs with the top four earning double life.
Tickets – Passes are $60 (week), $40 (weekend) or $15 (day) at the gate.
Twitter – @StCroix2018.