This Month's News

Worlds Best Players Coming to St. Catharines

June 20, 2014




By Bernie Puchalski, St. Catharines Standard


ST. CATHARINES - Fastball aficionados will want to be at Lancaster Park this weekend.

The 21st-ranked Niagara Snappers and the 2013 world champion and top-ranked Hill United Chiefs will be co-hosting the Hill United Snapper Shootout Friday to Sunday at the St. Catharines Park starting at 6:45 p.m. Friday with Niagara battling Toronto followed at 9 p.m. by Hill United playing the New Zealand Black Sox.

“I know the Niagara Region used to be a hotbed of fastball and there’s still a lot of fans who come to watch us,” Niagara Snappers player Scott Young said. “It’s a great opportunity to see some of the best players and teams in the world.”

Competing in the event along with the two hosts will be the New Zealand and Argentinian national teams along with the second-ranked New York Gremlins, fourth-ranked Toronto Gators, 11th-ranked New York Staten Island Swashbucklers and the un-ranked Great Lakes Mariners.

Up for grabs in the event is one berth in the International Softball Conference’s World Tournament in August in Kitchener.

A number of teams in the tournament have already qualified for the worlds and if one of them wins this weekend’s tourney, the worlds berth will go to the next best team in the event. There are four or five teams still seeking a berth in the worlds, including the Snappers.

Niagara came within one game of qualifying for the worlds at a tournament in Cobourg a few weekends ago.

“This is our second chance to qualify,” Young said.

There are a few other qualifying events left on the calendar but the Snappers would love to take care of business this weekend.

“We’d like to be making preparations to go,” Young said.

The Snappers, who play out of Niagara Falls in the Golden Horsheshoe Fastball League, ran the Snappers Shootout from 2004 to 2010 and then decided to take a few years off. The team was approached this year by Hill United to co-host a tournament and the squad jumped at the opportunity.

We've improved in the rankings over the last five or six years and obviously with them being No. 1 in the world, it was a great opportunity for us to play against some of the best players and teams in the world," Young said.

The Snappers, established in 1999, have been one of the top fastball clubs in the GTA for the last decade.

They climbed to the top of the International Softball Conference (ISC) intermediate rankings in 2005 before deciding to play senior ball against the best players and teams in the world. Niagara has qualified for three world tournaments at the senior level, finishing 24th in Eau Claire, Wisc., in 2008 and failing to crack the top 20 in Kitchener in 2010. In 2012, the previous experience at the worlds plus key additions to a strong nucleus saw the team finish ninth at the worlds in Midland, Mich.

"The beautiful thing about our team is that we are truly local and that is rare on the senior or open circuit,” Young said. “ A lot of teams have players from New Zealand or Australia. If they have the budget they can afford these players."

It is a point of pride for the team to maintain its strong local base.

It's not that we haven't had the opportunities," he said. "As soon as you start climbing and get noticed a bit more, there are more people interested in joining the team."

Local players on the team are Young and Jay Paylove from Pelham; Darren Newson, Paul Ditta, Pete Dobbin, Dave Neal, Bryan Beslisle, Mike Bateman, Perry Bartley and Brent Thomson from Niagara Falls; Kevin Newhouse, Ryan Rothwell, Matt Lyon and Tom Berube from St. Catharines; and, Trevor Falk from Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Rounding out the roster are Dean Carr from Burlington, Adam Alexander from Cargill, Andrew Phibbs from Hagersville, Steve Gillis from Hamilton, Kyle Linton from Toronto and Blake Underwood from Port Elgin.

Hill United Snapper Shootout

What: Fastball tournament featuring some of top-ranked teams in world and national teams from Argentina and New Zealand.

When: Friday to Sunday.

Where: Lancaster Park, St. Catharines.

Local team: Niagara Snappers.

Final: Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

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