O’Leary-based squad plays first game Thursday
The Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles are looking to soar to new heights.
Having won the Eastern Canadian intermediate C men’s fastpitch championship the last three years, the O’Leary-based Eagles are in the final stages of preparation for a major international tournament. The Eagles leave on Tuesday for Quad City, Iowa, for the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series of Softball.
“We are ready to go,” said Eagles coach Eric Gavin. “The boys have been working extremely hard in preparation for the NAFA event.”
AA majors division
The Eagles will be among close to 30 teams from around the world taking part, and are entered in the AA majors division.
Eagles infielder Darcy Harris concedes the division is probably a step or two up for the three-time Eastern Canadian intermediate champions, but he said the classification is based on the calibre of their ace pitcher, Mitch Hardy. Since Hardy is ranked as a AA major pitcher, it is the division the Eagles have been slotted.
With that in mind, Harris said, Hardy will be a workhorse.
“He’s already been told he can pitch as many innings as he wishes,” said Harris, who admits the Eagles have not played as many games as they would have liked this year as the Maritime league has fizzled.
The Eagles won a recent tournament in Charlottetown, however, and they are taking those results to Iowa as both motivation and a confidence-builder, Harris said.
The Eagles open the tournament with two games on Thursday against teams from Missouri and Washington. The early results will decide the Eagles’ seeding for the playoff round.
Harris expects Hardy to pitch both games, and suggested if the Eagles can crank out three or four runs a game they should be able to put Hardy in a good position to win.
Friday, however, could be more challenging as, depending on how the team performs, they could play as many as three games. Harris admits that might be a little much for one pitcher to handle.
Luckily, the Eagles can rely on three other pitchers – Jamie Betts, who also plays infield for the Eagles, and pick-ups Steve Bishop and Chris Craig from the Charlottetown Fawcetts.
Other commitments are keeping Eagles pitcher Steve Noonan and catcher-infielder Jordan Knox out of the tournament.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” said Gavin. “Once we get to the playoffs we will re-evaluate our goals, but I think in the back of everyone’s mind is to win it all.
“We are a very competitive club and we love to win, but we want to take it one step at a time.”
The Eagles have also picked up the Fawcetts’ Dustan Jones. Harris describes Jones as smart, quick and has the ability to catch. He can also be called upon for either the infield or outfield.
Troy Ellsworth and Ryan Perry will be largely handle the catching duties for the tournament. John Ellsworth, Mike MacIsaac, Jesse MacIntyre, Harris, Jones and Betts will share infield duties. Jason Smallman, Curtis Reilly, Jordan Costello and Joel Rodgerson will patrol the outfield.
A question mark for the tournament is outfielder Jeff Ellsworth, who will miss at least the start of the tournament while coaching the P.E.I. under-18 girls at the Canadian championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
At least four members of the Eagles’ roster have some familiarity with Quad Cities. Hardy, Craig and Jeff Ellsworth have played there before, and MacIsaac has played hockey there against the hometown Mallards.
Mitch Hardy, P
Steve Bishop, P/OF
Chris Craig, P/IF
Jamie Betts, P/IF/OF
Troy Ellsworth, C
Ryan Perry, 1B/C
John Ellsworth, 2B
Mike MacIsaac, 2B/CF
Jesse MacIntyre, SS
Dustan Jones, IF/OF
Darcy Harris, 3B/1B
Curtis Reilly, LF
Jordan Costello, OF
Joel Rodgerson, OF
Jason Smallman, OF/DP
Jeff Ellsworth, OF
Coach Eric Gavin