Baseball Canada’s 21U Women’s Invitational begins Thursday morning in Stonewall.
It’s the second year in a row the championship is being held at Quarry Park.
“It’s great to be on home soil, not traveling and being able to represent your province in Stonewall,” said Team Manitoba head coach Jeremy Culleton. “I think that’s part of the excitement. We went through some bumps last year just learning how things were going to sort out and try to figure out this age category and organize it a little bit. I think Baseball Manitoba and the coaches have done a nice job with that. I think it’s going to be a great turnout. We’ve had some exhibition games and taken in a lot of practices. I think the girls are going to be ready to go.”
Manitoba’s roster includes Brittney Langlais of Garson and Caitlin Culleton of Vassar who both played on the 2017 team that lost all four round robin games and failed to advance to the semifinals.
“With the age group you have, girls that are in college and you have girls that are just finishing high school, so working becomes kind of a bigger priority for them,” said coach Culleton. “Trying to organize schedules and making sure we had our schedules out well ahead of time, I think that was one of the biggest things that we learned. We gave them all an opportunity so they could make practices and tryouts. We have girls traveling from all over the province and actually have one that’s working outside of the country. We were able to put those schedules together earlier and give them an opportunity to book time off and be really committed to the team.”
Five provinces are represented at the 21U Invitational including Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“It’s great ball,” Culleton noted. “A lot of the girls that are at the 21U are being looked at and selected for the National team. You might catch the odd girl that is playing at the AAA level or AA level. The calibre is probably close to AA. We’ve beaten AA teams with this group this year and hope to continue to do well. For the most part the girls are at a AA level. We obviously have AAA calibre players on our team but for the most part it’s pretty good ball.”
Team Manitoba will play its round robin opener against defending champion Ontario at 9 a.m. Thursday.
“They’re a very tough team,” said Culleton. “Really deep in the pitching area so we look forward to that game and see where we can kind of balance off of that.”
Manitoba will also face Saskatchewan on Thursday night; Quebec on Friday and play their round robin finale Saturday afternoon against Nova Scotia.
The top four teams advance to the semifinals on Saturday night.
The Gold & Bronze medal games take place Sunday.
photos courtesy Merlin Heppner