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Botwood native Tracy Woolridge wins world softball title with Ontario team


Pitching to a world title

BOTWOOD, N.L. —

Tracy Woolridge’s softball story starts like many others who have come before him — he was chasing his older brothers. 
His mother will tell you he started playing as a three-year-old with the five-year-olds because there he would find his brothers. 
They were pitchers, along with their father Jerry, and the younger Woolridge wanted to be one, too.
In those days, his hometown of Botwood had a bustling softball scene. 
There were people at the ballfield constantly. Woolridge’s family lived a stone's throw from the field and there weren't many days when he wasn’t there one way or another. 
“We were constantly at the ballfield,” said Woolridge, now 50. “While my friends were watching movies, I was on the field throwing pop flies to myself or pitching against the fence. 
“I wanted to learn how to do that. It was the fun that people had and being around friends that drew me to it. I want to be better.” 
His love of softball was only heightened when his father took him to see the King and his Court featuring the king of softball Eddie Feiner. 
A power pitcher in his younger days, Woolridge entered the 2019 International Softball Congress Legends World Tournament with the savvy of a hurler who had been around the block a couple of times. 
He could still reach back for a little extra when needed, but he had learned to hit his spots and work the ball up and down with catcher and Burin native Phil Slaney. 
Held in Denmark, Wisconsin, Woolridge was a part of the Dieppe Ridge Legends based in Ontario that were crowned the tournament champions after beating CR Brewers Legends 4-1 in the final on Aug. 17. 
Across six games in the tournament Woolridge was solid at the plate and hit .333, but it was on the mound where he shone, especially in the last three games. 
Heading into the quarterfinal game, Woolridge had thrown just three innings in the tournament. That was on Aug. 16 and his coach took him out early in case he was needed the following day. 
Turns out his arm was required as Woolridge was tasked with throwing 17 innings across the next three games after the quarterfinal starter left with an injury. 
That meant he finished that game, and started and finished the semifinal and final matchups for his squad. That's unheard of in any sport. 
“I’ve got a pretty sore arm, but I got through it,” he said. “Everything was working on that day.” 
Interestingly enough, the semifinal game featured a pitching duel between Woolridge and fellow Newfoundlander Ward Gosse. 
The pair dueled for seven innings but Woolridge finished with the edge as his team won 3-1 over Relic Sudbury. 
For his efforts, Woolridge was named a member of the tournament all-star team and was the tournament’s most valuable pitcher. 
He finished the tournament on the mound with three wins and a miniscule earned-run average of .35. In 20 innings of work, Woolridge struck out 28 hitters and scattered nine hits. 
Still one question remains. 
How does being able to call himself a world champion sound to Woolridge?  
“It's pretty cool,” he said. “It is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me.” 

nicholas.mercer@thecentralvoice.ca 

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