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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Shamrocks heading south for year-end provincials
by Randy Pascal

Four teams of Sudbury Shamrocks head off to provincial championships this weekend, most of whom have a very realistic chance of returning home with some hardware.

Count the Sudbury Mosquito Shamrocks within that group.

Despite fielding a relatively young lineup - coach Craig Thompson and his staff have an even split of first and second year mosquito aged players on the squad - and kicking things off against the defending champs, Annett Baseball Association (Toronto), this fundamentally sound crew can still make some noise.

A double-knockout format ensures that the Sudbury reps will still be alive, come Saturday morning, regardless of the tough initial draw. Thompson, however, is hopeful that a summer of preparation pays dividends right out of the gate.

"We do a lot of extra work at the beginning of the summer, a lot of extra practices during the day," he said. "I'm a big believer in defense. I work with a lot of the kids during the day, working hard on defense, outfield fly balls and infield ground balls."

Make no mistake - these kids could compile quite the highlight reel of impressive plays in the field.

"We were in a tournament, in the semi-finals, and a ball got hit into the foul zone and I made a diving catch," recalled outfielder, second baseman and pitcher Rheanna Crépeault. "Sometimes, you don't get balls in the field, but that's OK, because you're still helping your team, just in case a ball gets hit there."

Despite being the only female on the team, the 11 year old grade six student at Félix-Ricard still finds herself contributing, in a whole variety of ways. In the recent Valley tournament, she would pitch a shutout against Moose Factory, and chalked up another four innings in the final against Weston.

Crépeault is also making progress, quite gradually, at the plate. "Sometimes I'm a bit nervous, because they might throw really hard," she said. "But we do a lot of practices with coach and stuff, so my batting has improved and I'm better with faster balls."

Teammate Ethan Thompson echoes the pride that Crépeault demonstrates in her defensive game. "This year, in houseleague, this guy hit a rocket to the left side of me, a line drive," he said. "All I did was that I laid out, dove really high in the air and just caught it. Everybody was jumping on me."

While he also splits time at the positions of pitcher and catcher, Thompson is most in his element at shortstop, the very core of the infield where he thinks the game through, always remaining a step ahead of the play.

"If there are no runners on and a ground ball is hit to me, I just go to first," noted the 10 year grade five student at Ecole St Dominique. "If there's a runner at second with less than two out, I watch the runner, run him back and throw to first."

"If a ball is not hit so hard, or it's like a chopper and bounces a lot, I charge at it," Thompson continued. "If it's a really hard hit ground ball, then I will stay back. Most of the time, I still have time to get him out at first."

And though his team may have a fairly solid grasp on many facets of the game, coach Thompson knows that there are other valuable teaching opportunities that exist with his group of 10 and 11 year olds.

"Baseball is a tough sport," he noted. "You can make an out on seven of ten at-bats and still be in the Hall of Fame. My message has been in trying to get the kids to stay positive. You strikeout, you drop an infield fly, stay positive. This has to be a positive environment for all the kids."

"These kids are 10, 11 years old," Thompson continued. "They all want to hit 1.000. We try and focus on making sure that everybody does something during the game to help us win, whether it be moving a runner over on a ground out, to catching a routine fly in the outfield."

As for the Select OBA (Ontario Baseball Association) provincials that commence Friday in Guelph, Thompson is not about to go "all in" quite yet. "If we can play Sunday ball, that is a goal that is attainable," he said. "That might be the final three (teams, of twelve), might be final five. But that's my goal every tournament that we play in, to play on Sunday. It would be a good ending to our year."

Rounding out the roster of the 2018 Sudbury Mosquito Shamrocks team are Colton Nowoselsky, Colton Audette, Mathieu Lacasse, Cameron MacDonald, Cavan Clarke, Josh St Germain, Lucas Gutscher, Matthew Trottier, Braiden Paul, Ian MacDonald, head coach Craig Thompson and assistant coaches Kyle Gutscher, Brendan Clarke and Jeff Nowoselsky.

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