Dou­ble gold

Stephen Mullaley re­flects on Pan Am Games, World Cham­pi­onships

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

When a good hitter finds his com­fort zone in the bat­ting box only great things can come of it.

Just ask the Team Canada male fast pitch soft­ball team af­ter they wit­nessed Fresh­wa­ter na­tive Stephen Mullaley get on a hot streak that car­ried them through the play­offs of the ISF World Fast Pitch Cham­pi­onships and the Pan Amer­i­can Games. Mullaley played a big role in help­ing Canada win at the worlds and claim gold at the Pam Am Games.

In his fi­nal 11 games, the slug­ging first base­man owned op­po­si­tion pitch­ing.

Mullaley went 18 for 33 dur­ing that time, which is good for a .545 bat­ting av­er­age.

He also picked up three walks, four home runs and knocked in 19 runs dur­ing that span.

“I felt com­fort­able in the box and I’m happy that it hap­pened in those two tour­na­ments in par­tic­u­lar,” he said. “Any­one on our team can get in a groove like that, and it makes it eas­ier to get com­fort­able (at the plate) with the lineup that we had.

“You never had much pres­sure on one hitter. You knew that if you didn’t get it done, some­one else was go­ing to do it.”

In the round robin of the ISF tour­na­ment, Mullaley hit a pedes­trian, by com­par­i­son, .313 with two home­runs and four runs bat­ted in.

He at­tributes his hot streak at the plate to his at­ti­tude and ap­proach. Dur­ing the world cham­pi­onships, Mullaley found him­self head­ing to the plate think­ing about not strik­ing out.

“We put a lot of work in train­ing and prac­tic­ing hit­ting, but also men­tally and be­ing bet­ter pre­pared to per­form in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions,” he said. “In the cham­pi­onship (of the worlds) I got hot, but dur­ing the week against that pitcher I had strug­gled. He struck me out three times.

“I was think­ing about it be­tween games and at-bats about what ad­just­ments I have to make. I found I was get­ting in the box and try­ing not to strike out and not get­ting in the box and try­ing to hit the ball hard.”

The ad­just­ment ob­vi­ously worked, as Mullaley helped lead Team Canada to both a world cham­pi­onship and a Pan Amer­i­can gold medal.

The Pan Ams

Im­pres­sive solo sta­tis­tics aside, Mullaley and his team­mates put to­gether a solid week at the Pan Amer­i­can Games. Canada, which fea­tured five New­found­land play­ers and a pair of coaches, never lost at the ath­letic spec­ta­cle and fin­ished with a record of 7-0, in­clud­ing a tight 2-1 vic­tory over Venezuela in the gold medal game.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Mullaley. “I’m es­pe­cially proud of how the team pulled to­gether af­ter the World Cham­pi­onships and as a group we re­ally fo­cused on the Pan Ams the very next week. We never rested on the suc­cess of the worlds. “We knew what an op­por­tu­nity (to win), the Pan Ams were on home soil and we im­me­di­ately shifted fo­cus.” Two dif­fer­ent feel­ings Two weeks and two dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments on the world stage can be a men­tal and phys­i­cal grind for any ath­lete. They get into one rou­tine at one tour­ney, and then have to find that same rou­tine at the next one.

Mullaley said the Cana­dian soft­ball team got back into that rou­tine quickly at the Pan Ams. Co­in­ci­den­tally, that re­sulted in its sec­ond gold medal in less than a month.

“We had a hope that we would (win both cham­pi­onships),” he said. “We were very aware of how dif­fi­cult it would be if we did. We knew we had the team to do it.” Mullaley called the ISF World Cham­pi­onships “the pin­na­cle” of the soft­ball world.

“It was two dif­fer­ent feel­ings,” he said.

Words from home

In the midst of the Games, Mullaley re­ceived a spe­cial mes­sage from home. The lo­cal sport­ing com­mu­nity gath­ered at a ball field in Pla­cen­tia to record a video wish­ing Mullaley and the rest of Team Canada good luck the rest of the way.

“I saw it on my phone on the bus on the way to the ball field,” he said. “All the guys gath­ered around and watched it. That was some­thing very spe­cial and I’m grate­ful that they did that.”

For Mullaley, it was his first ap­pear­ance at the Pan Am Games, and the first time soft­ball was held at the Games since 2003. Canada has a strong tra­di­tion in the tour­na­ment.

In seven tour­na­ments from 1979 to 2003, Canada won the gold medal each time.

“We wanted to keep that tra­di­tion go­ing,” said Mullaley. “Walk­ing into the ath­lete’s vil­lage with a gold medal around your neck for the greater, big­ger Team Canada, the other Cana­dian ath­letes are wait­ing for you and giv­ing you stand­ing ova­tions.

“It is very spe­cial from that stand­point.”

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Stephen Mullaley, left, of Fresh­wa­ter, Pla­cen­tia Bay, re­turned to his home­town over the week­end to celebrate his con­tri­bu­tions to Team Canada's gold medal per­for­mance at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. A mo­tor­cade and meet and greet took place Satur­day, Aug. 1. Seen here with Mullaley are a cou­ple of his young fans — Mar­cus Pittman (cen­tre) and Parker O'Reilly

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO/TED SCH­A­BEL

Fresh­wa­ter (Pla­cen­tia Bay) na­tive Stephen Mullaley went 9-for-14 over­all at the plate for Canada in its five pre­lim­i­nary-round wins at the Pan Am Games men’s soft­ball com­pe­ti­tion, driv­ing in eight runs and scor­ing five more.

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