Saskatchewan’s men’s softball team won a silver medal at the 2017 Canada Games in Winnipeg in early August.
The all-star squad rolled through the round-robin games with an undefeated record to qualify for the playoffs. An 8-7 win over Quebec in the semi-final on Friday, August 4, put Saskatchewan into the gold medal game against Ontario.
The championship bout was a rematch of an earlier quarter-final game in which Saskatchewan lost 11-1 to Ontario.
The final was a lot closer, as Saskatchewan fell 4-1 to Ontario. Continue reading “Saskatchewan men’s softball team wins Canada Games silver”→
Justin Laskowski of Warman and Evan Morris of Delisle are no strangers to competitive fastball.
Morris is a third baseman with the Saskatoon U18 Selects, while Laskowski is a shortstop with the Saskatoon Junior Diamondbacks. They play regularly in the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association (SASA), one of the top softball leagues in Canada.
But suiting up for your country is a whole new experience for both young men. Laskowski and Morris are among 17 of the top junior fastball players in Canada that made the final roster for the 2016 Canadian Junior Men’s National Team. They made the cut following a three-day selection camp last weekend in Kitchener, Ontario.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for sure,” said Morris, who graduates this year from Delisle Composite School. “It’s an honour to wear that red and white maple leaf and represent your country.”
Laskowski, who’s wrapping up his first year of university at the U of S in Saskatoon, is likewise pumped about donning the Canadian colours at the upcoming Junior Men’s World Softball Championship in Midland, Michigan, USA from July 24 to 30.
“I’m very excited,” said Laskowski. “It’s a real honour to play for your country. It takes things to a whole new level.”
Three other Saskatchewan players also made the national team roster, including Jordan Hudson and Sheldon Bierle of Saskatoon, and Nick Basaraba of Prince Albert.
James Shirley of Delisle and Joshua Montana of Regina were also invited to the final selection camp. While Shirley didn’t make the final roster, he is listed as an alternate and could join the team at the tournament in the event of an injury to one of the players.
Todd McCulloch of Martensville is the pitching coach with the junior men’s national team. He said all the players at the final selection camp worked hard over the past year to earn a spot on the team, but in the end the coaching staff had to make some difficult choices.
“They did make it tough for us,” said McCulloch. “Every one of them wants to wear that maple leaf, and they all did the work we asked them to do over the winter.
“But at the end of the day, we put together the 17 players we think have the skills and the mental toughness it takes to win at the highest level – a world championship.”
Morris said the selection camp in Kitchener was “very competitive” and he wasn’t sure if he would make the team.
“It was pretty intense,” said Morris. “The coaches told us we had to come into the camp prepared and they weren’t kidding. I was a little nervous but just tried to play my game.
“With 25 guys all competing for 17 spots, you can’t let the nerves get in your way.”
Morris re-injured his hamstring during one of the inter-squad games the first night of the selection camp, but he still made the final cut based on his on-field performances over the past year.
“They have coaches that keep a pretty close eye on us through the year,” said Morris. “I guess they saw things they liked.”
Morris is expected to heal up in the next month and be in game shape by the time the team plays in the Cephas Roth Memorial Tournament in Tavistock, Ontario July 14-17.
“That tournament will be a real test to prepare the boys for the Worlds,” said McCulloch. “They will be playing a three-time world champion club team in their opening game. That team has some of the best players in the world, including an ace pitcher from Australia.”
McCulloch said the local players should be ready for anything because they’ve already seen world-class pitching from the likes of Devon McCullough and Trevor Ethier, who pitch regularly in the SASA.
“There are no nights off in that league,” said McCulloch. “Saskatoon is home to some of the top fastball players in the country.”
Laskowski agreed the experience of competing in the SASA has sharpened his skills.
“It’s been very beneficial for us as young players to go up against guys like that, who have all that experience and skill,” said Laskowski. “We see that fast pitching here, and we know how to deal with it. So when we get into world-class competition we’re a little more prepared.”
Laskowski said he’s “blessed” to have top-level coaching from both his parents, Marla and Syd Laskowski.
“My parents have really helped me a lot with my game my whole life,” he said. “Both on and off the field, they’ve always been there for me.”
Morris credits the “fastball culture” in Delisle as a big factor in his development as a player.
“There’s a real strong fastball tradition in Delisle,” said Morris. “I grew up playing the game with all my friends, and as I got older, because we didn’t have the numbers at home, I started playing in Saskatoon.
“There are actually five of us from my community that play regularly for the Selects in the SASA.”