In the end, says St. John’s native Ryan Boland, Team Canada wasn’t as mentally sharp as they needed to be at the 2013 ISF XIII Men's World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month.
Boland, along with Newfoundlanders Jason Hill of St. John’s, Sean Cleary and Brad Ezekiel of Harbour Main along with Stephen Mullaley of Freshwater, now living in Toronto, and Sean Whitten, originally from Petty Harbour now living in Calgary, helped Canada to a 6-1 round-robin record before dropping two straight playoff round games in Kiwi Country.
Boland said the players were “super jet-lagged” when they got into Auckland after a 16-hour plane ride from Vancouver.
“We practised the day we landed and then for the next 10 days prior to the start of the tournament,” explained Boland.
“It took us about a week to work out the bugs, but we felt better after that.”
Canada’s round-robin performance included a 9-7, eight-inning victory over New Zealand Black Sox who would go on to win the championship.
Ezekiel was three-for-five and Boland collected two hits with each player smacking a home run in the win over the host team.
The New Zealand players impressed Boland with their intensity and all out style of play.
“New Zealand is known for their talent, but also the way they try to intimidate their opponents,” notes Boland.
The Black Sox began all games with the team doing the Haka, the traditional ancestral war cry/dance which most sports fans will recognize from watching the country’s All Blacks rugby team.
“Their fans were loud and hostile and the players slide high into the bases, cleats up. They don’t play to make friends. They play to win,” said Boland.
“They were friendly off the field, but they were all business when the games started.”
While Canada enjoyed succes in the round-robin, the playoffs were a different matter, as Canada was knocked out after a 3-1 loss to Venezuela and 2-1 defeat at the hands of Argentina.
“I think we just got beat by better teams to be honest,” he said.
“On paper, our team was definitely as good as any of the other teams. But, while our pitchers did well, we didn’t hit as well as we should have.”
And Boland believes the time of year had something to do with that.
“Our bats weren’t sharp. Everyone was game ready, but not situationally ready.
“We had our reps, but not in big moments… in crucial situations. It takes a long time to build your confidence to produce in the bottom of the seventh with men on base. That only comes after playing a full season, not when you are cold.”
Hill, who was attending his first ISF tournament, said everyone was willing to play whatever role needed. He came off the bench to pinch hit four or five times, something he’s not used to in the local senior circuit.
“It’s going to be a little while yet before we get over not coming home with at least a bronze medal, but it’s been a learning experience, for sure,” said Hill.
“We’re not making any excuses. I mean, we can analyze it to death. But we just didn’t hit the ball when we needed to.”
He said the improvement of other countries at the elite level of the game was a real eye opener for him.
He said he won’t soon forget his time in New Zealand, adding, ”It was unbelievable to be in that part of the world.”
Boland and Hill said the Newfoundlanders on the team played well and had a good time.
“It also showed that our (Molson St. John's Senior Softball) league is as good as any in the world,” noted Boland.
Boland has a busy summer ahead playing on three teams; Imagewear Custom Apparel in the St. John’s league, with 3-Cheers Pub at nationals and with defending ISC world champion Jarvis Travellers of Ontario.
Meanwhile, the next ISF world championship is scheduled for 2015 in Saskatoon, Sask., and Boland would like to be there.
“I’m looking to be a part of that. It’s a goal of mine,” Boland said.