Built to win

Darcy MacRae
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Roebothan, McKay, Marshall seen as provinces best chance

Roebothan, McKay, Marshall pitcher Ward Gosse and catcher Scott Dwyer (foreground) confer on the mound during an exhibition game against the Vancouver Grey Sox at Friday evening at Lions Park. Gosse had to pitch his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded corn

The spotlight will be on Roebothan McKay and Marshall when the 2007 Labatt national senior mens fastpitch championship opens in St. Johns Sunday, but that suits the tournaments host team just fine.

Roebothan McKay Marshalls roster is a whos who of Newfoundland softball, featuring world-class players such as Colin Abbott, Shawn and Rob OBrien, Stephen Mullaley and Jason Hill. The club also includes an import ace pitcher capable of shutting down the best of hitters on any given night. In short, this team represents the provinces best shot of winning a gold medal at nationals, a responsibility not lost on head coach Glen Littlejohn.

This team is built to play on Sunday (Sept. 2, in the championship game), Littlejohn said. A lot of thought and a lot of effort went into selecting this team and we believe its a team that can get to the final.

According to Abbott, this team has what it takes to get to the final.

Abbott has played in and won multiple Canadian fastpitch championships over his illustrious career and says Roebothan McKay Marshall is as serious a contender as fans can expect to see at this years nationals.

Weve got lots of great pitching, he said. Were four of five deep when it comes to pitching.

When youve got lots of pitching, , experienced pitching, you have a chance to win every game, said Abbott. This team is every bit as good as teams Ive won national championships with.

Roebothan McKay and Marshall has nine players on its roster who participated in last weeks International Softball Congress (ISC) championship tournament, considered the World Series of fastpitch. Included in this group are Abbott and outfielder/pitcher Hill, who were members of The Farm squad from Madison, Wisc., which won the 2007 ISC title. Both earned spots on the tournaments all-world team, while Mullaley was named a second-team all-star. RMMs Geoff Evely also played in the championship game, suiting up for the second-place SoCal Bombers.

In addition to the outstanding local talent, the host team has brought in the OBrien brothers catcher Sean and pitcher/infielder Rob from Ontario. The OBriens are originally from Newfoundland and, according to Littlejohn, are looking forward to again representing their home province. Rob is a feared hitter and elite-level pitcher while Sean is considered one of the best catchers in the country. Both have plenty of national team experience.

But perhaps the biggest out-of-province name to be added to the roster is pitcher Frank Cox of Ontario.

A veteran of many national teams, Cox has won five Canadian fastpitch championships, three ISC titles and was named top national pitcher on six different occasions. Hes got a well-deserved reputation as a big-game pitcher, according to Littlejohn.

Frank Cox is a veteran national team pitcher, hes a proven winner. He wants the ball and knows how to win, said Littlejohn.

Hes probably a power pitcher more than a finesse pitcher. Hes got a quality drop, a quality rise, good off-speed pitch. He throws the ball where he wants to throw it and pitches his game.

Abbott has faced Cox several times during his career and played with him on many Canadian nationals teams. Abbott said from whats hes seen, Cox is the type of player you want on the mound when the game is on the line.

Frank has been one of the dominant Canadian pitchers for the past number of years. He always pitches well at the nationals, said Abbott. If youve got an ace like Frank, you have a shot to win.

Cox, Mullaley and the OBrien boys all won gold medals at last years senior fastpitch nationals playing for St. Thomas, Ont., giving even more championship experience to the host teams lineup.

I think were stronger (than the St. Thomas team that won gold in 2006), said Mullaley. We have the two best pitchers from last years St. Thomas team (Cox and Rob OBrien) and now, were adding Ward Gosse and Blair Ezekiel to that. Weve got a really good blend of veteran talent and good young guys.

The only drawback of having all these players on one team is that some players who are used to starting will now have to accept roles off the bench. There is always a question of whether or not this could lead to some bruised egos, but Mullaley insists that wont be the case with this team.

A lot of people will think that, but it wont be a problem for us because our coaching staff did a great job of making sure everyone knows their role, said Mullaley.

With the roster set and players slowly making their way to St. Johns, the days before the fastpitch nationals have been the calm before the storm for Roebothan McKay and Marshall. Littlejohn was anxious to finally see this team on the field, playing against the best the rest of the country has to offer.

Weve been over the lineups, 1 through 9 and 9 through 1. Right now, its time to start playing, Littlejohn in advance of his teams pre-tournament exhibition match with the Vancouver Grey Sox Friday night.


More coverage, page C3

Organizations: International Softball Congress, Labatt, The Farm Vancouver Grey Sox

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Ontario, St. Thomas Madison, Wisc.

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