World’s best will play in Rock Invitational

Five teams competing in ISC tourney at Lions Park

Two of the top teams on the International Softball Congress travel circuit will be in St. John’s at the end of the month for the first ISC-sanctioned fastpitch tournament in Newfoundland.

Australian Adam Folkard, rated by many to be the best softball pitcher in the world, will be competing in the Rock Invitational, an International Softball Congress tournament, at Lions Park in St. John’s in two week’s time. Many more of the world’s best players will be on display in the tourney, which will involve the three-time defending champion Hill United Chiefs of Ontario, the Toronto Gators and three teams from the Molson St. John’s senior league.

The Hill United Chiefs’ Rock Invitational, to be held at Lions Park June 30-July 2, will feature the host Chiefs, a squad based out of Ohsweken, Ont., and the three-time ISC defending champs. The Chiefs have also won the American Softball Association title the past three years.Both the Chiefs and the other visiting ISC travel circuit squad, Toronto Gators, have distinct local flavours.

The Chiefs are coached by John Hill of St. John’s, and their roster features Jason Hill from the capital city, Freshwater’s Stephen Mullaley and Brad Ezekiel from Harbour Main.

As for the Gators, their starters include Sean Cleary from Harbour Main, and Ryan and Shane Boland from Goulds, along with Jeremy O’Reilly from Placentia.

Joining the Chiefs and Gators in the three-day event are three clubs from the St. John’s Molson senior men’s circuit — NTV Hitmen, Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs and The Big’s.

So why are the Chiefs and Gators travelling to St. John’s?

“For the past two years,” John Hill said, “we’ve gone to Florida to celebrate our ISC championships, and this year we decided to come to Newfoundland because the owners and some of the guys have never visited.

“So I guess the tournament is a spinoff from the ISC celebration that was planned anyway.”

As a perk for the three local teams, one of those squads will qualify, depending on finish, for the 2017 ISC championship in Michigan.

In addition to Jason Hill, Mullaley and Ezekiel, who have all been with the Chiefs for five years, Hill United features a pair of Australians — Adam Folkard and Nick Shailes.

Folkard is generally regarded as the finest pitcher in the world, throwing in the mid- to high-80s — from 45 feet out. As for Shailes, the second baseman was the MVP at last year’s ISC championship in South Bend, Ind. He has also been ranked by Fastpitch World Media (FWM) as the world’s No. 1 position player. Mullalley, by the way, was No. 4 in the FWM rankings, while Ezekiel was No. 9.

As for pitchers, Cleary was listed as No. 3 on the 2015 North American Fastpitch Association’s classification list, while Folkard was No. 1. Cleary also topped a December poll of non-Canadian players (by the highly regarded Al’s Fastball website) on who they felt was the best pitcher in this country. The same poll had Mullaley (1), Brad Ezekiel (4) and Jason Hill (5) among Canada’s top five position players.


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