Two years ago, Alisha Welch was nervous.
Just 16 years old, she had been invited to the training camp for the Canadian junior national team fastpitch program.
Welch didn’t make Canada’s U19 squad that year, but given another opportunity earlier this summer, there was no denying the Langley teen a roster spot this time around.
Even so, Welch admitted she wasn’t sure she would even crack the line-up at June’s final tryout camp.
“I had a good camp, but going into it, there were just so many good people,” she said.
“It is hard to know where you stand.”
Twenty-eight players were invited to the final camp in late June and Welch landed one of the coveted 17 roster spots.
“I was extremely nervous two years ago,” she said. “I learned to be more confident and was more confident this time around.”
One advantage Welch had over her counterparts was two years of university ball under her belt compared the competition, who were all coming off their freshman seasons.
Welch, who turned 19 last week (Aug. 6), is coming off her sophomore season at UMass Lowell, where she plays shortstop for the River Hawks and is studying plastics engineering.
She skipped the sixth grade and graduated a year early (2013) from Walnut Grove Secondary.
“It is a big difference, having that year under my belt really helped,” Welch said.
“I had a lot more experience and the mental aspect, I was a lot stronger.”
University ball has been an adjustment as well.
She was recruited to the Massachusetts university after playing her club ball with the Surrey Storm. But following Welch’s freshman year, the coach who recruited her was replaced by Danielle Henderson, a former Olympic player for the U.S.
“I thought it was going to be hard because you have to prove yourself all over again, but it wasn’t that bad,” Welch said.
Welch hit a team-best .299 with a .378 slugging percentage and a .371 on-base percentage. And the short-stop was one of only two players to start all 47 games.
Those numbers were up significantly from her freshman season, where she batted .221 while starting 41 of 48 games.
“I told myself to relax more,” Welch said.
“And at the plate, I didn’t think (too much), I just went up there and hit.”
And full of confidence after a spectacular sophomore season, Welch used that throughout the Team Canada tryout process.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to represent my country,” she said.
“It means so much to me to be able to wear Canada on my jersey, and knowing my hard work has paid off is one of the best feelings.”
The team won the gold medal in the Futures Gold division at the Canadian Open at Surrey’s Softball City in early July.
“Playing in Canada, wearing the Canadian jersey, it was all just so much fun,” she said.
“Seeing the crowd and having your friends and family there, it was an amazing experience.”
Welch is in Oklahoma City, OK this week for the WBSC XI junior women’s world softball championships. The championships began Aug. 9 and run until Aug. 15.
“It is nerve racking but so exciting. I think once I get there, it will be so much fun and a good experience,” Welch said.
She also hopes this is a stepping stone to one day play on the Canadian senior women’s national team, and hopefully represent her country at the Olympics if softball regains admission to the Games, which could happen as early as 2020.