When some of the boys of summer take to the diamond in St. Albert, there is a girl among them.
On a roster filled with young men, shortstop Julia Nicholson is the only girl on the peewee AAA St. Albert Cardinals. But she insists she is treated like just one of the guys.
“They’re really nice to me. They don’t treat me any different,” said the 13-year-old who just finished Grade 7 at Lorne Akins Junior High School.
Cardinals’ manager, Mark Brisson, agrees.
“They all get along great, regardless of boy or girl, which is great to see,” he said. “Julia’s a second-year player and she’s in there with the team — she’s sliding, she’s one of our better fielders, she’s a good pitcher.”
Nicholson is a key part of the Cardinals’ infield at shortstop and bats in the cleanup spot.
“She has shown she can handle some of those pressure situations. … she throws harder than some of the boys in this league,” Brisson said.
Nicholson said playing ball has given her more confidence, especially at shortstop, which she called her favourite position.
“I like being the leader, calling out the plays, telling people where to go,” she said.
Nicholson was inspired to play baseball by her older sister, who played for Team Alberta.
“She’s really inspiring,” she said. “I thought it was really cool, so I wanted to play too.”
Nicholson said she hopes to follow in her sister’s footsteps to climb the ranks through St. Albert Minor Baseball and play at a high level in the bantam and midget age groups.
Nicholson was 1-for-2 with a strikeout, a walk and a run scored Tuesday night as St. Albert came away with a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Cardinals at Legion Memorial Park.
Edmonton struck first in the top of the third inning, but St. Albert fired back in the bottom half, with right-fielder Justin Enright scoring on a sacrifice fly. That turned into a double play when Ryley Fetter forgot to tag up on the fly ball and was thrown out at first base.
Brisson said it was an opportunity that slipped away.
“You want to put as much on that scoreboard as you can, in case you fall down in the last inning,” he said. “That’s a great example of how we’re always in the learning stages with these boys and girls. They’re doing a great job, they’re going in the right direction.”
But St. Albert rebounded. Down 2-1 in the fourth, Nicholson scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. In the fifth, third baseman Ben Grabia and catcher Jakob Brinkhof each hit RBI singles to put St. Albert ahead 4-2.
Brisson said his batters wore down the opposing pitcher with some long at-bats, leading to the runs.
“As a pitcher, when you get a few runners on base, you get a little worried,” he said. “Get in there, get your hacks and pressure them a little.”
Meanwhile, St. Albert’s defence held strong as relief pitcher Dan Gerlach retired the last 10 batters he faced courtesy of several groundouts and a couple of deep fly balls.
“That’s very big for us because [Edmonton] is a very good hitting team,” Brisson said. “They pressure your defence, just like any baseball team should and our defence held. Our motto this year has been very clear: bend, don’t break. Tonight, we bent a little bit, but we kept them off the base paths.”
The team is in Kamloops this weekend for the Sussex Insurance All-Star Tournament. Brisson said while some of the competition will be familiar, the Cardinals are looking forward to testing their mettle against teams from British Columbia.
“You never know what you’re going to get, if they’re going to be big like us,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to playing different teams.”