By Martin Cleary
As our unpredictable winter plods along, Tyler Branchaud is immersed in his Police Foundations studies at Algonquin College and recording goals and assists for the struggling Char-Lan Rebels junior B hockey team.
But when he has some free time, the Metcalfe, ON., resident will switch into dream mode and think about softball. He did that just recently on one of those cold, refreshing days.
Softball Canada recently announced the final five members of its national team for the World Baseball Softball Confederation U23 men’s softball World Cup April 15-23 in Parana, Argentina, and Branchaud found his name on the list. The original core of 11 players was selected earlier.
It was the kind of news that warmed his soul and made him anxious for the arrival of spring, snow-free ball diamonds and meaningful games.
“Honestly, it was a very nice surprise,” Branchaud, 19, said, when asked about earning a berth on his second national team. “I was very, very happy with it. It’s a very proud moment to represent your country in any sport at the top level.”
A total of 12 countries will attend the World Cup and Canada was awarded the last berth through a wild-card in December, after the other 11 nations qualified at regional tournaments. The World Cup was cancelled in 2022, but was reallocated to Argentina for this year.
“I was notified I was in the mix. I was just waiting on the results. There wasn’t much I could do. They based their decision off my Canadian championship performance,” added Branchaud, who played for the national U23 development team at the 2022 Canadian senior men’s softball championship in Newfoundland.
In 2020, Branchaud, an outfielder, was a member of the Canadian U18 national team and travelled to Palmerston North, New Zealand. Canada placed sixth overall and Branchaud had two hits in six at-bats, two RBI, six putouts and was involved in one double play.
“I was very happy with my performance, but as a team it wasn’t what we wanted,” he continued.
Three years later, Branchaud is confident the Canadian U23 team can give a better showing at the World Cup in Argentina.
“I think we can go and do very well. I have a lot of confidence. I think we have a special chance to do something,” Branchaud said.
If it were possible, he’d probably like to start training right now to keep pace with some of the world’s top teams.
“It’s especially difficult for us. Teams like New Zealand, Australia and Argentina are in mid-season form. It’s especially important to do what we can to get ready,” he added.
Branchaud understands the Canadian team will have a short training camp in Florida with practices and games. Once in Argentina, the team will resume training and have more exhibition games before the World Cup.
While Branchaud works out at Algonquin College’s new gym complex, he hopes to expand his training in February to the Greely Legion, which has indoor artificial turf and netting for fielding and hitting workouts in its large hall/gymnasium.
In 2022, Branchaud played for the Napanee Express, which won the silver medal as host team for the Canadian men’s U20 softball championship. He also played outfield in the Greater Ottawa Fastball League with the Manotick Brewers and was named to the league’s all-star team.
Branchaud and his younger brother Zach, 17, have spent most of their summers playing softball. That’s natural as the sport is a big part of their family culture.
“My dad had a huge impact on that. He was big into it. He wanted to get us involved,” Branchaud said.
Mike Branchaud, the father of Tyler and Zach, had a huge impact on softball in Eastern Ontario in his day as a premier pitcher and hitter at many levels. His all-around talents were highlighted at International Softball Congress tournaments as well as spending two four-year terms (1994-97, 2007-10) with Eddie Feigner’s four-man King and His Court travelling softball team.
Inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, Mike Branchaud joined Softball Canada in 2007 as its manager for Canadian championships and 10 months ago was named its CEO to replace Hugh Mitchener.
While softball is on the horizon for Tyler Branchaud, his focus for the next number of weeks is playing out his Eastern Ontario Junior B Hockey League season with the Char-Lan Rebels, which are seventh in the Martin Division at 12-17-3-1.
Despite a 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Jr. Canadians last Saturday, the game was one to remember for the Branchaud family. All three Branchauds were in the lineup.
Zach, who is listed on the club’s website as a 6-4, 243-pound forward, played his first game with the Rebels this season. Tyler was kept off the scoresheet, after a four-point game the previous night against the Alexandria Glens. Mike was the proud father behind the bench in his role as one of two assistant coaches to head coach/general manager Jeff Carter.
Tyler Branchaud is the leading point scorer for the Rebels based on 14 goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He also played in the EOJHL All-Star game Jan. 23 in Perth and scored one goal.
JASMINE LYONS 13TH IN WORLD WOMEN’S NORDIC DISTANCE RACE
Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club’s Jasmine Lyons made an impressive debut Tuesday at the world U23 cross-country ski championships in Whistler, B.C.
The University of New Hampshire student/athlete was the second Canadian and 13th overall in the women’s 20-kilometre mass-start classic race in one hour, three minutes, 28.2 seconds. Quebec City’s Liliane Gagnon was 12th in 1:03:20.7.
Lyons has two more years of eligibility remaining in the U23 class. Both Canadians finished ahead of American Olympian Novie McCabe (14th), who was 18th in the women’s 30-kilometre race at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Norway’s Kristin Austgulen Fosnaes won the gold medal in 1:01:40, ahead of silver medallist Lisa Lohmann of Germany, 1:01:42.2, and bronze-medallist Margrethe Bergane of Norway, 1:01:47.2.
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