The U16 Rep Bantam Blazers host the Bantam B Girls' fastball provincial championships at Echo Minor this weekend. The first game starts at 9 a.m. Friday (July 19

U16 girls’ fastball championships start in Port Alberni

The Alberni Valley Blazers 97 get set to open the 16-team Bantam B girls' tourney at Echo Minor Field.

The U16 girls provincial fastball championships kick off at Echo Minor in Port Alberni this Friday, July 19 at 9 a.m.

The Alberni Valley Blazers 97 play host to the 16-team tourney, which includes Langford Lightning, Sooke Cyclones, Nanaimo Breakers, Vancouver Lakers, Richmond Islanders 98, Surrey Storm 97, Surrey Storm 98, Langley Rebels 97 (unofficial), Abbotsford Outlaws 97/98, KelownaHeat, West Kootenay Rockers, Prince George Thunderbirds, PoCo Ravens, Ridge Meadows Rage 97, and South Delta Invaders 97.

“This is high-calibre play and we are thrilled to be hosting the event,” Blazers coach Shannon Charlesworth said.

The Blazers have a core of seven players who have been with them the longest, and they are coached by Tony Schutte, who played to hometown crowds in the Midget A provincials four years ago.

One of three team captains, Chelsey Charlesworth, 16, has played in five consecutive provincial championships. She won gold last year, played on the bronze medal Summer Games team in the U14 division representing Vancouver island select team, she pitches and brings a strong bat to the lineup.

Captain Shellsea Steed, 16, is also a big part of the core group or returning girls who have been together for six years, Shannon Charlesworth said.

Steed began in right field and moved to the infield playing second base, and now she dominates short stop.

Captain Chesley Burgess,16, and also part of the original group of girls is the quarterback of the team, playing the catching position and controlling the plays. She leads with a strong bat. She has her work cut out for her this weekend with temperatures expected to exceed 30 degrees Celsius and playing behind the plate underneath all that catcher’s gear.

The team is hoping to attract good crowds for the championship. “It’s nice to play at home

with the support of the community because it really

pumps the girls up to see friendly faces in the crowd,” Charlesworth said.

“It also helps to be familiar with the playing fields.”

Admission is free. For more information, check out Alberni Valley Minor Softball’s website at http://www.albernisoftball.com/2013-u16-bantam-b-girls-softball-bc-provincial-championships.