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The players on the diamond range in age from 15 to 76, but the tie that binds them is a love for the game.
The Island Female Fastpitch League was created this spring as a way to help grow the sport while giving the six squads a chance to play competitive games on a regular basis without having to incur the expense of leaving the province.
All six teams are preparing for either national or international competitions.
“It’s good experience because we’re playing younger, faster teams,” Emily Cairns of the Pro Cresting Stealers women’s team said after a recent game with the West Township Tigers under-19 squad. “We’re definitely more experienced, but they come to play, and it’s tough.”
The league also consists of the under-19 Eastern Braves and the under-16 Stratford Truck & Auto Repair Stars plus the province’s two masters teams (Cheers and the Subway Sluggers).
The league is a win-win for everybody.
“We’re just happy because we were there, back years ago, when we were playing fastpitch at their age,” Cheers head coach Dawn Moase said. “Some of us are old hands, and we love the sport so much, we want to continue on and that’s what we’re doing.”
The league plays in Charlottetown on Thursday nights at City Diamond and Monday nights at Queen Elizabeth Two.
Stars head coach George Drover said the league provides a great opportunity for his girls to learn against more experienced athletes. The games will only help them later in the season.
“We’re going to see better pitching, and our pitchers will see better hitters,” he said. “That’s going to be the calibre of ball we see at nationals.”
Cairns, a 22-year-old from Montague, patrols centrefielder for the Stealers. She is constantly on the move each play, whether it is backing up a potential throw or making a play on her own.
She was a mainstay on the Scotiabank Reds squad and then Team P.E.I. that represented the province at the 2017 Canada Games in Winnipeg. There wasn’t a place for her to play last year so she sat out the season.
“I missed it so much I wanted to get playing again,” she said. “A lot of us really jumped on the chance to go to nationals this year.”
Moase said they hope the league provides an opportunity to keep women playing.
“The younger ones are looking at us and saying, ‘My gosh, this is what we’re able to achieve’,” she said. “Hopefully next year (the league) will even be bigger and better. We’re just getting it off the ground right now. It’s a good start. We’re having some great games. I know, for our team, we’re certainly enjoying the competition.”
That's the word Softball P.E.I. president Chris Halliwell, who also coaches the Stealers, uses to describe what people will see when they take in a game.
“They’ll see competition,” he said, after his team battled back from an 8-1 deficit to earn a tie with the Tigers.
“The girls could have mailed it in . . . but they’re all competitors so nobody is going to quit. And you’ll see that from every team. Nobody is going to quit. They want to win and they want to get better.”
While each team is seeking a victory when they step on the field, there’s also a chance to get better each night regardless of the outcome.
“We always say, you’re never too old to learn, and we continue to learn,” Moase said. “We learn from them and hopefully they can pick up somethings from us also.”
In previous years the teams might play some exhibition games against each other, but the league provides a chance to have consistent games.
“It doesn’t matter how good of an athlete or how good of a ballplayer or ball team you are, if you don't have the game situations, some rust (sets in),” Halliwell said.
Need to know
Island Female Fastpitch League
What – A six-team league set up this spring to provide Island teams a consistent place to play.
Who – A look at the teams that comprise the league and what they are working towards:
Stratford Truck & Auto Repair Stars – Attending the Canadian under-16 championships in Calgary.
Eastern Braves – Attending the Canadian under-19 championships in Kitchener, Ont., and the under-19 Eastern Canadians in Fredericton, N.B.
West Township Tigers – Attending the under-19 Eastern Canadians in Fredericton, N.B.
Pro Cresting Stealers – Attending the Canadian women’s championships in St John's, N.L.
Cheers – Attending the World Masters Games in Kansai Japan in May 2021.
Subway Sluggers – Attending World Masters Games in Kansai Japan in May 2021.
When – The league plays in Charlottetown on Mondays at Queen Elizabeth Two and Thursdays at City Diamond.
6:15 p.m. – West Township Tigers vs. Pro Cresting Stealers.
8:15 p.m. – East Braves vs. Cheers.
Softball P.E.I. president Chris Halliwell said: “Everybody kind of has the same goal: They want ball to succeed on P.E.I.”
Island Female Fastpitch League recent results.
Cheers 10 (WP - Joy Hanson. TB - Tasha MacDonald 4-for-4 and Pam Arsenault 4-for-4); Stratford Truck & Auto Repair Stars 9 (LP - Darcie Kelly. TB - Ashley Cullen, a home run, triple and two singles; Kyah Kennedy 3-for-3).
Eastern Braves 10 (WP - Emma Fleming. TB - Madison Gallant 3-for-5, Makayla Gallant 3-for-4, Maria Brown and Emma Fleming); West Township Tigers 5 (LP - Ally Hustler. TB - Taryn Campbell, Ally Hustler, Marley Gaudet and Belle Ashley).
Pro Cresting Stealers 12 (WP - Sydney Halliwell. TB - Clara Wood, 3-3 with a 3B; Sydney Halliwell 4-4, Emily Cairns 4-4, Haley Savidant 3-4 and Maddie Clarke 3-4); Cheers 5 (LP - Sue Keen. TB - Tasha MacDonald 3-3 with a 2B, Sheila Oraniuk, Janet Cameron, Pam Beaton and Joy Condon all with a hit).
Pro Cresting Stealers 6 (WP - Sydney Halliwell. TB - Sydney Halliwell 2-3 with a 2B and a 1R, Emily Cairns 2-4 and Kailey Koughan 2-4 with a 2B); Subway Sluggers 1 (LP - Tammy Murphy. TB - Isabelle Richard and Ginette Plourde were each 1-2 with a BB).