With the province of Ontario headed into Step 3 of its reopening plan Friday, a few summertime sporting staples in Owen Sound are dusting off the equipment and running off the pandemic pounds.
The Owen Sound Selects under-23 fastpitch team and Owen Sound North Stars junior B club are returning to activities this weekend.
In fact, the Selects held a weekend training camp right after Canada Day as they prepare for a Labour Day invitational tournament in Saskatoon – the 2021 Grand Slam Softball Championship.
The Selects will host four exhibition games this weekend at Duncan McLellan Park in Owen Sound. Team manager Jamie Simpson said the Selects will play Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and again Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The Selects are playing against a group of alumni and other players to get some games under their belts.
There will be no grand prize this season as Softball Canada has cancelled its slate of 2021 national championships for a second-straight year.
“Cancelling the Canadian Championship for a second consecutive year was a decision we did not take lightly and we share in the disappointment of the athletes who were looking forward to competing for a national title,” said Scott Neiles, president of Softball Canada in a news release. “With the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became increasingly apparent that the health risks and travel restrictions would not allow for proper representation from across the country. Our focus has now shifted towards supporting regional events to give athletes an opportunity to compete outside of local league play if public health and safety conditions allow.”
Players on the Selects roster will head to Team Canada combine events July 24 and 25 in Innerkip and Napanee.
In August, the team is slated to play in some exhibition contests as well as the OASA Under-23 Eliminations in Cambridge, August 21 and 22.
Saskatoon’s Rawlings Grand Slam Softball Championship will go at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex and feature a women’s fastpitch, under-23 men’s fastpitch and a senior men’s fastpitch championship.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the Tara Twins and Tara Minor Softball are gearing up for the OASA Under-10 Qualifier West, August 7 to 8. The Twins will host a pair of teams from New Hamburg and an Elmira squad in the tournament.
The Owen Sound North Stars junior B team is headed to the fields near Kelso Beach in Owen Sound Friday with a golf tournament to follow Saturday.
Head Coach Jamie Grimoldby said he’s hoping to get eligible players out for runs and on-field skill development sessions each Friday to help shake off the rust after the 2020 and 2021 OJBLL regular seasons were quashed.
“I thought the whole year was going to be a write-off, but now that we’re reopening teams are starting to schedule some exhibitions,” Grimoldby said. “If we can get a month and a half of lacrosse, it’s worth it.”
With Ontario headed to Step 3, team president Mark Rouse has been busy organizing some exhibition game action for the N’Stars. There are still hurdles to clear, and no hometown floor times have been booked, but as of Thursday Rouse had tentative games set up in Orangeville, Orillia – Port McNicoll, and Guelph. He said he’d like to be able to play home-and-home exhibition games with the teams from those centres.
Rouse is also hoping to put on exhibition games featuring the N’Stars in the communities surrounding Owen Sound to raise awareness for the sport.
“Big picture, we want to tap into outside lacrosse communities and hockey communities,” he said.
Rouse mentioned Tiverton, Shallow Lake, Hanover and Meaford as potential locations to host an exhibition contest soon.
It won’t be a normal summer for the Selects or the North Stars, but with the pandemic waning in Ontario the athletes, staff and fans will see a return to game action this summer.
GREY BRUCE LADIES FASTBALL LEAGUE
Already back on the diamond, the Grey Bruce Ladies Fastball League kicked off their season this week.
The Tara Ladies shut out the Allenford Gators 4-0 in the opener with LeeAnne Cochrane and Christie Goudy combining for 10 strikeouts. Crystal Ramage was 2-2 at the plate while Michelle McNabb was 2-3 and swatted a triple.
Tammy Klages notched a pair of hits for the Gators in the loss.