For the first time in 12 years, boys’ squirt fastpitch provincial championships are coming to Port Alberni.
The Alberni Valley Blazers will host nine teams from all over B.C. this weekend at Echo Minor field for the boys’ squirt C and squirt rep B.C. championships.
“The last time the boys were hosted in Alberni was 12 years ago,” Blazers’ assistant coach Maria Charlesworth said. “And I believe it was a bantam age group.”
The Alberni Valley last year hosted bantam girls and two years ago hosted squirt girls. “We usually get a provincial (championship) every year. But they’ve been girls for the last 11 years,” Charlesworth said.
The Alberni Valley Minor Softball Association has earned a sterling reputation over the years for hosting provincial championships, so they usually are granted a tournament whenever they bid for it, she added.
Hosting the squirt boys is a positive sign for the boys program, which has been losing teams every year across the province.
“It’s a good thing to have them back on the Island.”
The Blazers finished fifth at the provincials last year and have had a phenomenal season this year already, Charlesworth said. “We think they’ll improve in the standings. We hope they place.”
The team has one loss and one tie in a winning tournament season so far. They play house softball in the girls’ peewee division in Port Alberni, then squirt boys’ teams in tourneys.
The Blazers are a squad of 12 players, and Charlesworth said they won’t be picking up any players for the provincials despite the fact they are permitted to. “They’ve worked hard all season and they deserve it,” she added.
Teams to watch include defending champions Clearwater—the only team to deal the Blazers a loss this season—second place Fleetwood and last year’s bronze medallists 100 Mile House.
Games start Friday, July 15 at 9 a.m. Opening ceremonies will be at 1 p.m. and the last game will be 6 p.m. Games run all weekend at Echo Minor Fields, across from the AV Multiplex on Roger Street. Admission is free, the concession will be open and there will be a raffle table.
A skills and drills competition is slated for Saturday morning, and it’s always a favourite with spectators, Charlesworth said.
HOME PLATE…The Blazers wanted something to commemorate all the time they’ve played together, so this year the team fundraised so they could buy new jerseys. They will debut their home whites at the provincials…The Blazers will likely play their first game at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. on Friday. The schedule was to be drawn after the News went to press…Games will be posted on the board at Diamond 1.