Holland product Alia Ross is glad she had the opportunity to represent Team Manitoba this summer. The Grade 9 student took part in the U16 Girls Invitational Baseball Championships. The outfielder says they did very well at the event, especially considering the circumstances.
"It was definitely a crazy experience because we only found out two weeks beforehand that we had a team. It was a really late tryout out. Usually, they have a team by May Long Weekend, and we were formed in August," Ross explains. "It was really late but our team ended up doing very well. Even though we placed seventh, we won five out of our six games."
Ross says the team only practiced together a total of three times before the tournament began, one of which took place at the facility in Prince Edward Island where it took place. She adds they built chemistry in some unique ways.
"We had a six-hour layover in Toronto, so we had a lot of time to get to know each other."
The Holland native was one of four U14 level players on the provincial U16 squad, and says it was great to learn from the older girls.
"They were very welcoming to me and were really nice. It was definitely a change in the speed of pitching. I was used to younger people pitching to me. When I went to the Westerns in Winnipeg, it wasn't as fast," Ross continues. "Our first game was against Jaida Lee, she's a Team Canada pitcher, and she throws around 80 to 85 miles per hour. So, she was very fast compared to what I'm used to."
Ross says the team's only loss of the tournament was their first contest against Lee and Newfoundland. The outfielder notes one of the biggest challenges was the different times they had to play at, as she notes one of their games started at 8 a.m., which is 6 a.m. in Manitoba.
Ross had a familiar face along for the journey as her sister Nyla was the team's bat girl.
"(Having Nyla there) definitely helped me out because she would come to talk to me if I made a mistake. She would tell me to get at it again. It was a good support system."
Ross notes she now has a lot of friends across the province from the baseball community due to this, which makes her even more excited to return to the program next season. She outlines what she is hoping to improve upon next year.
"One of my biggest goals is to get my batting down pat. I really want to improve my batting skills because when you play against faster pitchers, you have to get used to it and step behind the plate, so you have more time to think about it," says Ross. "I also want to get used to different styles of pitching like curveballs and knuckleballs because they were throwing a lot of different pitches at me, and I wasn't sure what to do."