McCarthy brings Pla­cen­tia pas­sion to soft­ball

Coach Smith wishes there was more fe­male soft­ball for girls to play

The Compass - - Sports - BY BRENDAN MCCARTHY

It was un­likely Brit­tany McCarthy would emerge as a mem­ber of a cham­pi­onship team from the 2017 Canada Sum­mer Games women’s soft­ball tour­na­ment.

But the 19-year-old from Pla­cen­tia has al­ready been a cham­pion this year.

McCarthy, the right fielder for New­found­land and Labrador’s fe­male fast­pitch en­try at the Games, plays with La­fontaine Club, the Pla­cen­tia team which is the de­fend­ing cham­pion of the Mol­son St. John’s in­ter­me­di­ate men’s league.

She’s far from a starter with La­fontaine, get­ting into just a hand­ful of games with the team in reg­u­lar league play, and only a cou­ple of at-bats in the Swing Into Sum­mer cham­pi­onship which the club won in late June.

How­ever, McCarthy says the ex­pe­ri­ence has been in­valu­able in the de­vel­op­ment of her game. It’s a mat­ter of os­mo­sis as she soaks up the soft­ball knowl­edge of her La­fontaine team­mates.

“It’s es­pe­cially good to get in there for games and get up to the plate, es­pe­cially with how fast they pitch (in the in­ter­me­di­ate league),” said McCarthy, who says she is made to feel a mem­ber of the team, not the fe­male mem­ber of the team.

“I couldn’t ask for bet­ter. I couldn’t ask for more. They treat me so well,” said McCarthy, who was named Soft­ball New­found­land and Labrador’s 2016 ju­nior fe­male player of the year. Brit­tany McCarthy

A nurs­ing stu­dent at Memo­rial — she’s pre­par­ing for her se­cond year of stud­ies — McCarthy played “ev­ery sport that was avail­able” grow­ing up in Pla­cen­tia, and was a mem­ber of the Laval High School var­sity girls bas­ket­ball teams.

But soft­ball holds a par­tic­u­lar al­lure.

“It just grabs me,” she said.

New­found­land’s Canada Games coach Paul Smith Jr. says that is ev­i­dent ev­ery time McCarthy takes to the field.

“I’ve been coach­ing Brit­tany for four years and if ev­ery player took this game as se­ri­ously and as pas­sion­ately as she did, we’d be right there with pretty much ev­ery team that is up here,” he said.

Smith is of two minds when it comes to how he views McCarthy play­ing with La­fontaine. He knows it’s an ac­knowl­edge­ment of her tal­ent, and that it pro­vides an opportunity for her to add to her skill level.

How­ever, the fact it is one of the few op­por­tu­ni­ties for her to find a com­pet­i­tive game out­side the Canada Games/NL Selects U21 pro­gram is also an in­di­ca­tor of how far the prov­ince is be­hind when it comes to women’s fast­pitch.

“It’s great that’s she’s play­ing with Pla­cen­tia,” said Smith. “She gets to see an­other side of things be­cause there are guys on that team who could be play­ing se­nior A, so she’s pick­ing up a lot of stuff that she can bring back to us.

“But in the over­all scheme of things, if we’re going to im­prove the women’s game at home, we need the top women play­ing with women.”

That doesn’t hap­pen a whole lot in New­found­land. The St. John’s women’s league op­er­ates on a very light sched­ule, and there is the provin­cial women’s tour­na­ment and the Games pro­gram, but al­most noth­ing else.

For younger play­ers, there’s the Moss mi­nor tour­ney and age-groups pro­grams, in­clud­ing un­der-14 and U16 which serve as East­ern Cana­dian qual­i­fiers. The U16 Selects par­tic­i­pate in the St. John’s league, but con­sis­tent, fre­quent play, all the way through to the se­nior level is al­most non-ex­is­tent.

“(Sum­mer Games soft­ball) is an un­der-21 tour­na­ment, and that means there are play­ers from other prov­inces who have been play­ing 15 or 16 years. Half our girls, even our best play­ers, have been play­ing only three or four years,” said Smith.

“If we’re going to change that, we need them ex­posed to some bet­ter coach­ing. But that can’t just start with U14 and U16. That’s got to start with un­der-10 and up, play­ing with the girls, get­ting great coach­ing and learn­ing fun­da­men­tals and ap­ply­ing the fun­da­men­tals on a con­sis­tent ba­sis all the sum­mer, not for one or two tour­na­ments and a cou­ple of games a year.”

That’s even more im­por­tant con­sid­er­ing Canada Games fe­male soft­ball will be­come an U18 tour­ney for 2021 in the Ni­a­gara re­gion of On­tario.

It’s es­pe­cially good to get in there for games and get up to the plate, es­pe­cially with how fast they pitch (in the in­ter­me­di­ate league). — Brit­tany McCarthy

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