The U19 AAA Manitoba Premier Softball Provincial Championship is storming the diamonds of Portage la Prairie this weekend. 

The action kicks off tomorrow afternoon with the Central Energy playing a double-header, the first at 3:00 and the second at 5:00. Assistant coach Graham Shindle says they are thrilled to be able to host such an exciting weekend of softball.

"We're really excited to play a provincial tournament on our home turf this weekend. We actually hosted this tournament last year, but due to COVID restrictions, it was a very minimal and bare-bones kind of thing. There were no playoff rounds," Shindle explains. "This year, we're looking forward to being able to run a full provincial tournament and declare a winner."

Shindle shares that many members of the squad have a decent amount of experience when it comes to events of this calibre.

"I think everyone one of our players has played in the provincials on a number of occasions at this level. But, I think experience isn't something that any one team will have a big advantage in," Shindle notes.

The Energy went 10-2 in the regular season this year with their only two losses coming at the end of the campaign while they were missing multiple starters. Shindle says they're heading into this weekend with faith in their abilities, however, they know they can't take anyone lightly.

"I think we're confident but we're well aware that starting off the season fast like we did, while it sets you up and builds your confidence, the reality is that gap closes throughout the season. We anticipate this will be a very tough and tight tournament. We're looking forward to testing ourselves against some of these exceptional teams."

All the teams hitting the diamond this weekend are a part of the Manitoba Premier Softball League, meaning the Energy are quite familiar with most of these squads. Shindle notes the only team they haven't played this year at the tournament is the Westman Magic, who went 5-6-1 during the regular season.

While the Energy is obviously looking to become Provincial Champions, Shindle says every team in this tournament will still have more softball left to play no matter the outcome.

"The top three teams in Manitoba qualify for the National Softball Championship. In this case, the U19 nationals are in Fredericton, New Brunswick and that will be about two weeks after provincials," Shindle continues. "Three teams will head east for that tournament and the other two teams qualify for the Western Canadian Championship, that's being held in B.C. this year."

Shindle adds that Manitoban teams tend to do quite well at the national level and with six players on the Team Manitoba roster, the Central Energy is hoping to put their best foot forward against the top teams in the nation. However, they will first set their sights on the Provincial Championship this weekend. 

The gold medal game will take place on Sunday at 3:00 at Rotary Republic of Manitobah Park.