Local softball season kicks off this weekend
The ball diamonds near Friedensfeld will soon be filled with the ding of bats and the pop of catcher’s mitts as the Eastman Wildcats softball season is set to get underway.
Games could be taking place at the facility as soon as May 7, with the U13 team hosting the Interlake Phillies, depending on field conditions.
Russ Kihn helps coach U13 for the Wildcats, and has a daughter playing for the U15 team. He said players from all age groups have been eager to hit the fields, but a late-spring snowfall had prevented it.
“It’s been a bit frustrating, but it’s definately getting us excited for when we can get out there,” Kihn said.
Teams have been practicing through the winter indoors, with some even meeting twice a week.
“We should have some strong teams in most age groups,” Kihn said.
“We should definately challenge for medals at provincials.”
Registration for the Wildcats has been strong according to Kihn. He added high-level rural programs across the province have thrived through the pandemic.
“We have a lot of kids interested, and who have stuck with it through the whole COVID situation,” Kihn said.
“We haven’t really lost players due to that… Being an outdoor sport helps.”
The group will be fielding a U19 team this season, alongside players from the Interlake Phillies, in addition to U13, U15 and U17 teams. Last season marked the first time a player from the program earned a American college scholarship and their first appearance at a national championship.
Dominique Tetrault spent last fall playing in Milwaukee.
“We like to measure (success) by the players growing and getting better every year and improving their skills year to year,” Kihn said.
“(Tetrault) is a big feather in the hat for our organization, sending a player to the next level, but even if they don’t go to that level, just continuing to be involved after they’re out of our organization is the goal.”
Friedensfeld, located just a few kilometres south of Steinbach, boast some of the best softball facilities in the province.
“It’s awesome,” Kihn said.
“The atmosphere, the location, is just fantastic. The grounds crew, all the people at the (Friedensfeld) hall do a great job. We really appreciate them.”
The U13 AAA provincials will be hosted in Friedensfeld this season in mid-July.