By Adam Prudhomme
Canada’s 2018 Junior Men’s National team will be powered by a Napanee battery next summer as they go for gold at the WBSC World Championship in Prince Albert, Sask.
Napanee AFW Construction Express pitcher Riley Manion and catcher Brendan Hagerman, both Napanee natives, were named to the 17-man roster following their try-out in O’Leary, PEI. Both players attended the tryouts right after they helped the Express win silver at the U18 Men’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship, also held in PEI. They stood out in the tournament at their respective positions, with Hagerman earning the nod as a tournament all-star as catcher after batting .471 with a home run and five RBIs while Manion went 5-3 with a 1.68 ERA, striking out 99 batters in 50 innings.
The duo shined when their team needed them most, teaming up to help the team win four straight games with lights out pitching to reach the gold medal game.
“Whenever he has the pressure on, he seems to perform,” Hagerman said of Manion.
With their backs against the wall at Nationals, Hagerman continued to call for the rise ball and Manion located it perfectly to help them reach the playoffs and then go on a winning streak when it counted most.
“We read each other so well,” Manion said of his catcher. “He knows what to call in the right situation, we just work well together, good chemistry.”
That comfort level goes back to junior mite, when they both first broke into softball with the Softball Napanee Express.
“It’s kind of incredible to be on such a high scale with somebody you’ve been with since day one,” Manion said of earning the selection to Team Canada.
They’ll look to help Canada improve upon their 2016 showing, when they won bronze.
“Having a chance to win, represent our country, it’s pretty cool to think you’re going to play for team Canada,” said Hagerman.
Having two players from their program set to represent Team Canada is a nice feather in the cap of Softball Napanee as well. Though the Chepstow team that ultimately won gold at Nationals will send seven players, their team draws from several centres across western Ontario.
“All of us from Napanee have been playing together since we were junior mite, four years old,” said Manion. “It’s kind of cool to think even though we won second, we didn’t have to team up (from outside the Napanee area) to get that medal.”
Both Manion and Hagerman credit their Express teammates for helping them get where they are, as well as their coach Bryan Brooks.
As an added bonus to being local, Manion and Hagerman will be able to work out together through the winter as they prepare for the Worlds, which will take place July 7-15, 2018. They will also be striving for gold at the national level, as the entire Express roster is eligible to return as a U19 club next season.