Jeff Ellsworth will have his eyes wide open during the Canadian under-18 boys softball championship in O’Leary from Aug. 16 to 20.
In addition to being the host town’s recreation director and tournament co-ordinator, Ellsworth is coach of the national junior men’s softball team. All but one of the 26 players Softball Canada invited to a selection camp in O’Leary from Aug. 21 to 25 are expected to compete for the national title.
“This event is pretty special,” Ellsworth acknowledged, pointing out the chance of making the national team puts more on the line for the camp invitees.
“It makes sense for Softball Canada (to have the selection camp in the same area as the national championship),” assessed Ellsworth.
A block of rooms has been reserved at Mill River Experience for camp members. Infrastructure around both O’Leary diamonds – Ellis Field and Jeff Ellsworth Field – has been extensively renovated in preparation for the tournament.
Everything has received a fresh coat of maroon paint, the fencing has received special attention and parched outfields are being watered.
Prince Edward Island will be represented by a Steve Noonancoached roster that has been assembled for the tournament. They might be a new team, but they’re talented and wellcoached, Ellsworth said.
“They have a real good defensive team,” he added.
Team members are from all over the Island, and local West Prince players on the roster are outfielders Brayden Handrahan and Dawson Sellick and catcher Colin Gaudette. A pitcher from Canadian under-18 boys softball championship: In O’Leary from Aug. 16 to 20. Two fields – Ellis and Ellsworth.
Eight provinces represented. 12 teams entered.
49 games scheduled. 60-plus volunteers registered. Over 200 players taking part. Over 250 participants including coaches and officials.
Ontario, Marshall Kulich, bolsters the lineup.
Team P.E.I. has games scheduled on opening day at 10 a.m., and 7 p.m.; 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, and 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 18.
Saskatchewan teams finished first and fourth at last year’s nationals. There are two different Saskatchewan teams entered this year. Some members of the defending champions are returning.
The Newfoundland Selects, who finished sixth in 2016, are back.
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With the tournament helping to fill several local accommodations for close to a week, Ellsworth anticipates many economic spinoffs for local businesses.
The under-18 nationals will be the fourth national championship O’Leary has hosted in five years.
Ellsworth said fans can expect to see high-calibre ball, with many of the pitchers throwing in the 70-to-75-miles-per-hour range.
All tournament games are scheduled for the two O’Leary fields but the field in Ellerslie is on standby, just in case rain delays occur and the schedule has to be compressed.
Action commences in O’Leary on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 8 a.m., with host team playing its first game that day against Ontario Two at 10 a.m. Evening games will be played on Ellis Field.
The playoff round starts Saturday, Aug. 19, and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, Aug. 20, at 2:30 p.m.