Sherbrooke bound

Nicholas Mercer
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Upper Island Cove teens make 2013 Canada Games squad

Upper Island Cove's Zack Coombs (left) and Bradley Riggs have been selected to the 2013 Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Summer Games baseball team.

Upper Island Cove's Bradley Riggs and Zack Coombs have been playing baseball together since they were young children.

They've went through the rigours of provincial ball together, both play in the Conception Bay North Bulldogs baseball program and captured a silver medal at the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games with Team Avalon.

Now, Riggs and Coombs will get the chance to display their talents on the national stage, as both will join 18 other young athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador as members of the 2013 Canada Games team heading to Sherbrooke, Quebec from Aug. 2-17.

For both players, it was an added bonus when they found out the other would be travelling with them.

"When I got the phone call, I was thinking, 'I wonder if Zach made it?,'" said Riggs.

Little did he know, Coombs was thinking the same thing as he fielded the phone call from assistant coach Frank Humber.

"When I found out Bradley made it, I was really happy," said Coombs. "It's someone to go away with."

Unexpected selection

There is a connection between the two.

Besides the fact they both came up through minor ball together, achieved provincial success at the Summer Games, the two grew up in the same community and go to the same high school - Ascension Collegiate.

"Zack and I have been going to school and playing ball together our whole lives. So going through it with him is the same thing as going with the Bulldogs," said Riggs.

Coombs was an unexpected selection. He was unable to make the second round of tryouts because he was fighting a bout of pneumonia, but informed coaches that he was still interested in trying out for the team.

Although he was not selected to go to Prince Edward Island in July, Coombs used a strong showing in the Summer Games to leapfrog some other candidates and onto the final roster.

Provincial feel

Watch enough baseball in this province and you begin to pick up on things. Like, the difference between provincial-level ball players and the regular crowd.

With the selection, Riggs and Coombs are now considered two of the top-20 ball players in their age group.

Both displayed the characteristics necessary to deem them top-flight athletes, from Coombs wielding a hot stick at the Summer Games - in one game, he was a homerun away from the cycle - to Riggs showing impeccable defence at first base.

"It feels good to be noticed. Especially coming from Upper Island Cove. St. John's and Corner Brook usually get the heads up," said Coombs.

Riggs has similar sentiments.

"It's right on," he said.

Coach's words

Upper Island Cove Bulldogs coach Scott Adams has guided the baseball trajectories of Riggs and Coombs for some years.

"Having coached Bradley and Zack for a lot of years, I take personal pride in their selection," said Adams.

He said the boys' selection shows the Bulldogs program is moving in the right direction.

"Along with the two selections, Baseball CBN had at least three other players that were deservedly on the Canada Games team radar, but just fell short when the final selections were made. For a small association, that's big progress," he said.

Next up for the boys, will be winter training before heading to a couple of warm-up tournaments on the mainland in the spring.

Both are exited for the opportunity to represent the province at the national level.

"The first thing I thought about was, 'what's the field going to look like?'" said Riggs.

For Coombs, the tournament offers another first besides playing in a national tournament.

"I haven't been on a plane before," he said.

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: Canada Games, Conception Bay North Bulldogs

Geographic location: Upper Island Cove, Sherbrooke, Newfoundland and Labrador Quebec Prince Edward Island St. John's Corner Brook

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