Gators excel on national, international fastball stage
Four Orléans Gators junior men’s fastball players have been making their mark on diamonds away from the east end on the provincial, national and international stage.
Kristian Knapp and CoryAlkerton were members of Team Ontario for the July 7-12 Under-19 International Men’s Softball Championship in Prince Edward Island, while Joel Langford and Chad Hargrove earned berths in the U23 national championships with a team they play for out of St. Thomas, near London, Ont.
The paths the four Gators took to get where they are have a few twists that are a bit irregular in the sporting world. Knapp and Alkerton both live in the Spencerville area and wound up playing for the Orléans Midget team a couple years ago since it was actually the closest competitive fastball team to their hometown.
Langford and Hargrove are both much closer to the east end. For Hargrove, he fell into the sport when he was recruited by a fastball rep team coach while playing Orléans Little League ball as an eight-year-old – the age when baseball players pitch with a similar under-hand style as that employed in fastball.
“It’s a faster pace than hardball – that’s why I play it,” Hargrove explains. “Growing up, it was mostly just because my friends were doing it.”
Friendship actually became an important tool to Hargrove’s fastball career since it was due to the game’s overall sense of camaraderie that he landed with Fingal, the team he’s going to nationals with.
Since there wasn’t a squad from Eastern Ontario entering the qualification tournament, Fingal invited Hargrove along with Langford to join their team. The pair has been playing during the week for the Gators in the Greater Ottawa Fastball League and then traveling on most weekends to tournaments in southern Ontario with Fingal.
“It ended up being a really good fit,” Hargrove notes. “I made some really good friends – I was actually out there the last two weeks just hanging out with them since I had some time off work.”
The Orléans boys had quite a bit of fun on the July 4-5 weekend as they helped Fingal earn a berth in the Aug. 2-9 national tournament in Owen Sound, where the team is gunning for a top-5 finish, Hargrove says.
Hargrove pitched strongly in an opening win at the qualification event, while Langford was the main offensive force with a single, double and triple during Fingal’s second victory. The crowning jewel of the weekend, however, came in a 10-0 win over Napanee – the team that beat out Fingal for the final national berth last year – when Hargrove pitched a no-hitter.
“That game didn’t exactly turn out the way I thought it would,” laughs Hargrove, who didn’t realize at first when the game ended that he actually threw a no-hitter.“I came off and asked,‘Did they get a hit?’ and everyone said, ‘Yeah, they must have,’ and then we found out they didn’t. It was great.”
Knapp and Alkerton, meanwhile, helped Ontario to a gold medal at the Softball Canadaorganized event in PEI.
For Gators coach Gary Hargrove, whose team owns a 5-9 record in league play, the success of his four players doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
“They deserve to be where they are based on their skill level,” he says. “They love the game, they play to their utmost, and they’ve been recognized for that.”
Orléans Gators player Chad Hargrove pitched a no-hitter during the tournament that qualified another team
he plays for out of St. Thomas for the national championships.