It’s been difficult for Paul Smith Jr.’s Newfoundland and Labrador Selects ladies’ softball team to find strong competition on the island this summer. The team is undefeated in the Coors Light St. John’s ladies league and recently went undefeated on its way to claiming the senior ladies provincial championships.
“There’s a lot of good players out there to play against, but in terms of a prepared unit (as an opponent), we haven’t been able to find it at home,” says Smith, the Selects’ head coach
“We’ve had to put the pressure on ourselves to try and make it more competitive.”
The team of 15 won’t have to look far for a competitive challenge when it begins play in Softball Canada’s under-21 (junior) women’s fastpitch championships today in Truro, N.S.
Smith says while the competition wil be stiff, especially from Quebec and the western provinces, he doesn’t expect the team to be decimated in the tourney.
“We know we’re going to struggle to hit against certain teams, we know there’s going to be games where we’ll struggle to make outs,” says Smith.
“Our pitchers, even though they’re very good at hitting their spots, we know they’re not going up there and getting a lot of strikeouts.
“If we can ... hold our own defensively and stay tough mentally, we shouldn’t be a walk in the park for any of the other teams.”
As for actually recording a win, Smith says that might not happen until after the round robin, when teams are separated into two tiers — the top eight make the top tier, with bottom six in the lower.
“If we end up in the lower six, we still have an opportunity to play against other teams who are about our calibre and still have something to play for at the end of the week.”
Moreover, with many of the Select players in a position to make the province’s roster for next summer’s Canada Games, Smith says this week will provide a great opportunity to get their feet wet at the national level.
“We’ve been building this team for the last couple of years, and we’ve managed to get away to a couple of Eastern Canadians and a couple of Montreal International Softball Challenges, so nationals will be one step further in our goal of making the 2013 Canada Games team,” he says.
The Selects open the tournament this morning against Alberta, followed by an evening tilt with Nova Scotia. They play Saskatchewan 1 and British Columbia Thursday, then close out the round robin Friday against Ontario 2 and New Brunswick.
Members of the team include Janie O'Leary, Jill Mason, Brittany Antle, Sami Kennedy, Amy Corbett, Susan Barry, Rebecca Maher, Cassie O'Leary, Victoria Woolridge, Heidi Sullivan, Callie Langmead, Natasha Buckle, Mariah Morrissey, Hilary Young and Mary Kate Dawson. Smith is joined by assistant coaches Anne Jefford and Lee Cose and manager Paul Smith Sr.