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They’re in tough on the Canada Games ball field

Rebecca Maher, left, of Petty Harbour and Brittany McCarthy of Placentia are leaders on Newfoundland and Labrador’s Canada Games women’s softball team.
Rebecca Maher, left, of Petty Harbour and Brittany McCarthy of Placentia are leaders on Newfoundland and Labrador’s Canada Games women’s softball team.

WINNIPEG — Newfoundland and Labrador took its lumps Monday in its opening games of the Canada Games female softball competition.

Some were recorded on the scoreboard in 10-0 mercy-rule losses to Ontario and New Brunswick. Others were evident in bruises and abrasions, a few coming in plays that evidenced a willingness that was far from enough to challenge for a win.

A number belonged to first baseman Rebecca Maher of Petty Harbour, including those picked up on a brave effort against Ontario that saw her tumble the opposing dugout as she snared a pop-up.

If it had happened on the Newfoundland bench, Maher would have found supporting hands. But you can never expect the same on the other side, although the 21-year-old Maher did say she received some assistance from an Ontario coach.

Then there was Victoria Curran, one of three players on the NL roster who have primarily baseball backgrounds.

Looking to make a play on a rolling grounder inside the third base line, Curran had the ball take a bad hop and smash into her jaw — “exploding up like a landmine,” said Newfoundland head coach Paul Smith. 

Curran, a 20-year-old from Mount Pearl, shook it off to the applause of the crowd and even earned a handshake and “good on ya” from the Ontario third base coach.

Curran, centre fielder Jaclyn Morgan and shortstop Dayle Prowse are the baseball-playing softballers. Prowse made her team's best play of the day against Ontario, diving to snag a line drive, then scrambling to second to turn it into an unassisted double play.

They were the sort of positive plays or reactions you need to look for in such lambastings.

For Newfoundland, there were too many errors and plays that didn’t result in an ‘E’ on the scorecard, but should have been outs anyway. And while Ontario and New Brunswick racked up hits, the NL team — facing pitching it doesn’t usually see — had just one all day, a single by Curran against N.B.

“Those negative plays are going too happen… they’ll happen to the best teams here,” said Smith. “They certainly happened to us today, but that’s not what we dwell on.

“We talk to each other after those plays, remind each other of what we should do, the same thing we do at home. But other than that, it’s ‘good play, great play', picking each other up as much as we can. Concentrating on the positive, more than the negative.

“We know the reality, and the reality is we don’t play the same level of ball or the same amount of ball as most of the other teams here, but while we know that, we don’t have to remind ourselves of it all the time.” 

Smith is counting on Maher a lot when it comes to keeping things in their proper perspective.

The 21-year-old Memorial University student from Petty Harbour has Games experience — she played for Newfoundland in 2015 in Sherbrooke, Que. — and comes from a family with a solid fastpitch background. Her father is Chris Maher, who played for Newfoundland’s bronze-medal winners at the 1995 Canada Games and for the Canadian team at the world juniors that same year. Her cousins are Mitch and Mark Stack, who were with NL’s male softball team at these Games last week.

“She’s our leader. She’s been our captain since Day 1. She’s battling through some injuries, unfortunately, and sometimes it affects her, but the others all look to her. When something’s on the go and something needs to be said, they all look to her,” said Smith.

Maher says she tries to bring her father’s qualities to the Games softball diamond.

“He’s a huge role model for me. He definitely plays a big part in the way I carry myself and I certainly listened when he talked to me about the Games and what they meant to him,” said Maher. “He told me this a big experience, to soak it up. 

“Since I’ve been through it before and know exactly what he meant, I am able to pass it along, telling them to take what they can from it, and not just on the field and in games, but from the whole thing because for most, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

With a long tournament ahead — Newfoundland has seven more preliminary-round games this week — they’ll have to keep looking for those positive plays.

“We know what we’re up against it,” said outfielder Brittany McCarthy. “We know how many games they get to play as opposed to us. We know how much they travel compared to us, having to come from Newfoundland.

“Sometimes, some of the other teams are going to look at us like they already have us. We know that. 

“What we can do, no matter what the scoreboard says, is to make them think twice about that.”

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

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