There’s something different about the Prince Edward Island team that will represent the province at this week’s 16-and-under girls’ national baseball championship in Bedford, N.S.
For the first time ever, the Island team’s roster is comprised solely of girls from P.E.I. The provincial squad had to add girls from Nova Scotia to round out the roster each of the past two years.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said 15-year-old outfielder Michaela Taylor, from St. Peters Bay. “We’ve been learning lots and have gotten to play a few games as well. We’ll be prepared at nationals.”
Karli Snow, a 12-year-old infielder from Summerside, agrees.
“We’ve got a great group of girls, but we are definitely going to Bedford to compete.”
P.E.I. begins play today at the 12-team tournament with games against New Brunswick at 9:30 a.m. and Newfoundland and Labrador at 3:30 p.m.
Baseball P.E.I. executive director Randy Byrne said its program was at a crossroad during the winter.
“Marc Pinet did a really fantastic job to start up a girls’ program during the last . . . couple of years, but we still really struggled at times to get a girls’ team together for this event and needed pickups for Nova Scotia,” he said.
In November, Summerside was awarded the hosting rights for the tournament in 2020. It later was announced as the host site for 2021 as well.
“Baseball P.E.I. decided we had to try something a little different and create a program for girls’ baseball which would feed players into our provincial (14-and-under) and (16-and-under) teams, especially considering that we are hosting the . . . nationals in 2020,” said Byrne.
In April, Baseball P.E.I. held three free indoor baseball camps for girls between 10 and 17 years old. Twenty-five girls attended the events and before long the provincial girls’ program for the two age groups was formed. Led by Byrne, Mackenzie Pinet, Tyler Johnston and Dave Atkins, this program started outdoor practices in early May. They have met once a week in either Summerside or Cornwall for 2 ½ hours working on fundamental skills, team concepts and other baseball activities.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Johnston, assistant coach for the 16-and-under squad. “We didn’t know if we’d get any girls at all. In the end, we had 17 girls between 12 and 16 years old committed. Let me tell you, the amount (of) growth and improvement in skills and just baseball IQ between May and now has been off the charts. They listen, learn and work hard. They’ve been so much fun to coach.”
The 16-and-under girls have played a few exhibition games against Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Summerside’s 13-and-under AA teams. Baseball P.E.I. will also be sending a team of all Islanders to the Baseball Atlantic 14-and-under girls’ championships in Fredericton, N.B., from Sept. 6-8.
“This program has wildly exceeded my expectations,” said Byrne. “We’ve got a terrific group of young women. I think we’ll do well at nationals, and I think the team we are sending to the . . . Atlantics will do very well too.
“Perhaps most importantly to me, all these girls are of age to return next year. We have an average age of 14, and at a (16-and-under) girls’ event, in which you are permitted three 17-year-olds, it just shows me the sky is the limit for these players.”
A look at Prince Edward Island’s roster for the 16-and-under girls’ national baseball championship in Bedford, N.S.
Selena Ford P/3B Summerside
Michaela Taylor OF St. Peters Bay
Carys Jelley 2B Charlottetown
Georgia Gallant RF Summerside
Lily Atkins C/P Stratford
Alyssa Perry SS/P Harrington
Karli Snow 2B/P Summerside
Gabriella Livingstone 3B/P Charlottetown
Claire Keough CF/P Borden-Carleton
Keirstin Rodgers LF Donaldston
Emily Gardiner 2B/P Savage Harbour
Katie MacDonald 3B/P Mount Stewart
Ella Nicholson 1B/P Kensington
Emily Albert RF Kensington
Jeanna Pickering LF/3B Borden-Carleton
Victoria Surrett SS/P Ottawa*
Madeline Arsenault OF Albany
Head coach Randy Byrne St. Peters Bay
Assistant coach Tyler Johnston Cardigan
Assistant coach Mackenzie Pinet Stratford
Assistant coach David Atkins Stratford
Chef de mission Jack McCabe Miminegash
Trainer Tessa Hood Charlottetown
Did you know? Some of the girls were also on the first squad, comprised completely of Islanders, to compete at the 14-and-under Atlantics in 2016, when they won gold in Hammonds Plains, N.S.
* Surrett lives in Darnley during the summer.