Game 3 of the Fastpitch National Championship Series 2021 was played last Saturday at the Gharb Stadium in Gozo. This was the first time that an official softball game was played at that venue, but it was not the first time that the field saw fastpitch action. The Gozo Cup, the final event of the Erasmus+ Sport project IGETS, held in November 2018, was the other time that the Gharb Stadium hosted fastpitch games.

As was the case in 2018, when some of the best softball players in the Netherlands and in Croatia, along with Nicole Thomas from the US, graced the artificial turf of the Gharb Stadium, this was an exciting game. Both teams performing much better than their previous encounter, however, the Redcoats exhibited better quality and their 10-3 win was thoroughly deserved.

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The Redcoats were more aggressive at the plate and managed a season high 12 hits (9 in Game 2 & 4 in Game 1), whereas they only walked 5 times (11 in Game 2 and 9 in Game 1). Once again Laragh Tabone made great contact with the ball registering two hits (2 runs scored), as did Estelle Scicluna (2 runs), Marilise Vella (1 run & 2 RBIs) and Lara Buttigieg (1 RBI). There were also base hits by Dominique Humphrey (1 run & 1 RBI), Simona Refalo (1 run & 1 RBI), Dosithee Attard (1 run & 1 RBI), and Courtney Attard, who on her first ever senior at bat hit a line drive to right field for an RBI single. Clarissa Camilleri walked twice and scored a run, Shaniya Spiteri walked once and scored a run, while Thea Sultana was hit by a pitch and had to leave the game as in the next play she was hit in the foot by an errant throw.

The fielding was much better as well. Lara Buttigieg playing at 2nd base registered 3 assists, pitcher Estelle Scicluna had an assist, while Laragh Tabone at 1st base made 5 put-outs and short-stop Clarissa Camilleri made two put-outs one of which was catching a hard hit line drive to her right.

Redcoats pitcher, Estelle Scicluna, was at her very best. Although the Curves scored a run in each of the first 3 innings, none of those runs were earned as they resulted from errors. She struck out 8 batters and walked just two, throwing 54 of her 84 pitches for strikes. For the final two innings she sat down the Curves in order striking out 4 of the 6 batters she faced to close the game.

The Redcoats now have a commanding 3 – 0 lead in the best-of-7 Fastpitch National Championship Series 2021 which will resume in autumn after the summer break. It is expected that the Curves will recoup the key players that were missing during the first 3 games and of the series whereas the Redcoats hope that Corinne Grima also returns following the injury she sustained during the 1st game.

The Redcoats have much to be proud of at this stage. Young players like Dosithee Attard, Lara Buttigieg, Clarissa Camilleri, Shaniya Spiteri, Elizabeth Farrugia, Thea Sultana, and Courtney Attard were able to improve enough to contribute both with their bat and with their fielding towards the 3 wins the team registered over the past month. ‘Veteran’ players like Corinne Grima, Estelle Scicluna, Laragh Tabone, Marilise Vella and Simona Refalo form the backbone of the softball club and they have kept the team very competitive. The input of US player-coach, Dominique Humphrey, cannot be overlooked. Her greatest impact was on pitcher Estelle Scicluna, adding a rise ball to her pitches and improving the effectiveness of her change-up and curve ball. Humphrey also managed to improve the hitting of the rest of the players as well as their fielding.

When one considers that the Ghajnsielem Redcoats have come so far, winning the Fastpitch National Championship for the past three seasons and being on the verge of a 4th while producing quality softball players, without access to proper facilities, one can only imagine what would be achieved should a softball field be made available to them. Over the past few years the committee has worked very hard trying to convince the authorities to grant them land that could be developed into a softball field. Twice they were very close to achieve that objective but somehow on both occasions things changed and nothing came of it. This has not discouraged the club which will continue to insist that a softball facility in Gozo would improve gender equality in sports on the island. A softball field in Gozo would be the first sporting facility ever built in Malta for a non-male dominated sport.