The Scenic City ball diamonds will set the stage for provincial fast pitch next summer.
Owen Sound has been awarded the 2019 Ontario Amateur Softball Association’s U23 provincial tournament.
“We’re really excited to get the tournament,” said Owen Sound Selects under-23 head coach Jamie Simpson. “It will be a real good opportunity for some of our players who are in their last year of junior to play at home.”
The provincial tournament will run at Duncan McLellan Park July 5 to 7.
The tournament acts as a qualifier for next year’s national championship in Saskatoon, which starts on July 31. Owen Sound has already qualified for the 2019 Softball Canada U23 Men’s Canadian Fast Pitch Championship as the defending champions.
The OASA will meet and vote to determine the remaining number of qualification seeds for the province.
“We want to win every tournament, but it will be a little bit of a different approach,” said Selects coach Jamie Simpson. “We just want to keep working on what we were working on up until the final pitch of last year, and work to getting to the finals of that provincial tournament in Owen Sound.”
The Cobourg Bulls will enter the under-23 best-on-best bracket as the defending champions after shutting out the Tavistock Hops, 4-0, in the championship game this past July in Grafton, Ont.
The Owen Sound Selects finished with the bronze medal in the 2018 tournament, they fell to the Hops 8-5 in the semi-finals.
The Selects will still have some skin in the game at home. The first-place team at the provincial tournament gets the first crack at players from Ontario teams who failed to qualify for nationals. The teams operate a player draft in descending order from the provincial results.
The bronze medal finish in 2018 had the Selects picking third overall for a player to take to nationals in Quebec. They selected New Hamburg’s Tyler Pauli with the pick and Pauli went on to be named the national tournament’s most valuable batter.
“When he fell into our laps with the third pick we realized we got the steal of the century,” said Simpson. “It’s the pecking order. We want to win that tournament and get the opportunity for the first pick.”
Currently the Selects only expect to graduate Cory McGregor from their national championship squad, and it sounds like they’ll need all hands on deck to compete with the 2019 Ontario class.
“There are going to be a lot of people vying to go out there (Saskatoon),” said Simpson. “I think there was only about 20 players that were in their 23 (age) year last year, if that, so across all of Ontario we’re only losing as few players. It’s going to be strong.”
Simpson said the province’s fast pitch clubs have really ramped up the intensity the last couple of years, even in the off-season.
“When we were younger you would more/less start calling people in April and May ‘hey guys, we’re going to have a team this year if you want to play.’ All that has been changing now and it starts as soon as the last pitch has been thrown.”
Duncan McLellan Park in Owen Sound will also play host to the Softball Canada Men’s U19 Fast Pitch Championships in 2019 from August 6 to 11.
The Selects are also hoping to schedule exhibition games against international clubs in 2019. They hosted the New Zealand Junior Black Sox at Duncan McLellan ahead of the Junior Men’s World Softball Championship.