By Stuart Miller-Davis
Team Ontario came away victorious in Baseball Canada’s 21U Women’s Invitational Championship, but Ottawa pitcher Elizabeth Plamondon said the real winner of the weekend is the sport of women’s baseball.
“We had so many young girls coming out to watch and you could tell that they were inspired and excited to go back to their own team,” she said about the event held at Ottawa’s RCGT Park over the August long weekend. “That’s a huge part of why we play, is giving back to the younger girls coming into the game, and we’re trying to grow the sport as much as we can.”
Plamondon’s own entry to the game came at the age of five or six when her mom, who played baseball when she was younger, signed her up for little league.
“I was the only girl for pretty much the whole time,” she said. “You get used to playing with the boys and I think that’s the case for most of my teammates. We grew up playing boys baseball and being the only girls on our teams. It’s definitely hard to earn their respect and you eventually find your way.”
But she was also taught some very important lessons by growing up and playing with boys.
“You definitely have to work harder, if not twice as hard to be just as good as them,” Plamondon said.
She said the transition to playing girls baseball was an adjustment and both she and her Team Ontario coach Joe Florio agree the two games differ.
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“I guess the women’s game is a lot more finesse involved,” said Florio. “The men’s game is more of a fastball game. They’re looking for guys who can throw in the high 90s or even 100. Whereas, the women’s game you need to have a lot of different pitches because they can all hit a fastball.”
Games at the Ottawa-held invitational lasted seven innings unless extras were needed. Pitchers were also subject to a pitch count and mandated by Baseball Canada to rest for a day before pitching again if they throw more than 60 times in one game.
Plamondon pitched in two games for Team Ontario, both of which cane against Team Quebec. In the first game she replaced starting pitcher, Caitlin Tomotsugu of Vaughan, Ont., after she hit the 60 pitch mark. Plamondon pitched in three innings allowing one run while striking out two batters.
“Liz came in and shut them down,” Florio said of her debut in the tournament. “At the end they got a run and Liz took it pretty hard because it was while she was pitching.”
In the gold medal game rematch against Team Quebec, Plamondon got the start and pitched three innings. She didn’t give up any runs in the first two innings but allowed five in the third.
Florio said it wasn’t her fault but rather the whole team making errors resulting in runs. After the third inning, Plamondon was replaced, which Florio said was to get a different look, since the Quebec team had already faced her earlier in the tournament.
Team Ontario won the tournament’s championship with a dramatic walk-off 9-8 win over Team Quebec. Fellow Ottawa pitcher Tess Forman was also a member of Ontario’s team.
Ontario’s championship comes at the end of a year when Florio says he’s really seen baseball take off in popularity amongst girls. More than 40 girls tried out for Baseball Ontario’s 16U team and for the first time ever, the 21U team had to make cuts, the coach said.
Florio, who first coached Plamondon in 16U, said she’s developed into a strong team player over the years and is super dedicated. Her dedication is no more evident than in the summers, when Plamondon will often make the four-hour drive to Richmond Hill for the team’s practices.
Plamondon says she hopes to stay involved with baseball for as long as she can. She wants to continue to play for Team Ontario and while she will be aging out of her boys’ team, she says she wants to figure out a way to keep playing.
As for the growth of the sport, she said it’s important to her that people recognize she and her teammates are playing the game because they love it.
“Separating softball and baseball for women is really important. You see people saying online, ‘boys play baseball and girls play softball.’ If we wanted to play softball, we would. What we are trying to say is, ‘we play baseball because we love baseball.”