Pride medals at westerns
St. Albert U16 softball team awarded bronze
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 06:00 am
Pride was on the line for the St. Albert U16 softball team to medal at the Western Canadian Championship in Winnipeg.
The fourth-place finishers at provincials finished 5-3 as bronze medallists in the eight-team tournament.
“That was a huge accomplishment for us,” said Natalie Bender, pitcher for the St. Albert Pride, a bantam team not affiliated with Fastball St. Albert. “Our team developed a lot throughout the year and to get bronze was absolutely huge for us at westerns.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to see the Pride’s bronze-medal team picture.
In the round robin the Pride, Prince Albert Aces and Manitoba tied for second at 4-2 behind the host Winnipeg Smitty’s at 6-0 with 52 runs scored. All four teams advanced to the medal round.
Because of runs for and against the Pride played the Thunder in Sunday’s 3-4 game and won 5-3 to ensure them of a medal.
“We were so excited. We were we all jumping up and down screaming. We couldn’t even believe it,” Bender said.
Monday the Pride challenged Smitty’s for a shot at the gold-medal game, but lost 4-2 and were awarded bronze.
“We wanted it so badly. We just tried our very hardest,” said Jamie Kidd, a versatile centre-fielder, shortstop and first baseman.
According to Softball Alberta stats dating back to 2004, the Pride is the first St. Albert team to medal at westerns. There has never been a St. Albert team to medal at nationals either.
“We were going in (to westerns) expecting to play our best but we never really expected to get bronze because this is our first year at westerns so we were really proud of ourselves. We thought we did really good for being a first year team,” Kidd said of the Edmonton Youth Softball Association champions and top-four finishers in the Girls Prairie League Softball standings.
Smitty’s went on to lose the final to Prince Albert 8-2. The hosts also dropped the 1-2 game to the Aces in extra innings with a three-run homer with two out.
The Pride, seeded as the second Alberta team at westerns, lost to both teams in the round robin by scores of 10-3 to the Thunder and 12-2 to Smitty’s.
The Pride also mercied Prince Albert, the second Saskatchewan seed, 10-2 in six innings.
“In the playoffs we all just realized that we had to play our game and focus on what we had to do to win,” Bender said. “No one never gave up and everyone worked together to go that far and accomplish that much.”
With a berth in the medal playoffs on the line in the 3-4 game, Sydney Halvorson reached first on a single in the top of the second, then advanced on Kirsten Baumgart’s hit before scoring on Tessa Doblanko’s double to right-centre field.
In the fourth, Doblanko’s hard grounder through the infield scored Baumgart and Kyrelle Skoye.
The Pride added two more runs in the sixth, when Kidd and Julia Kormysh reached base safely and were hit home by Baumgart’s timely blast into the right-centre field gap.
“Every time we got a hit our team would just start yelling and screaming. It seemed like one person would get a hit it, next person would and then the next person would too,” said Kidd, 15, a Grade 10 Paul Kane High School student.
The Prides survived a tense last at-bat by the Thunder to seal the deal. Bender pitched seven solid innings and was aided by great diving catches by Kidd and Kolby Krueger.
“Our composure in that game was unbelievable. To make the plays and make sure we got the outs to win the game was crucial,” Bender said. “Everyone contributed in that game. We had some really good hits and scored some runs.”
In the 2-3 game, and Smitty’s up 1-0 in the top of three, Cori van Uffelen reached first base on a running slap base hit and Rebecca Durocher followed with sacrifice bunt. Bender, the next batter, fouled off two pitches with two strikes and two out before drilling a line-drive single to right-centre field to score van Uffelen.
In the bottom of three Smitty’s loaded the bases with none out but were held to only one run. After walking two Bender dug in to get the first out with a pop up foul to third, then made the next two plays herself by fielding a grounder and throwing home on a fielder’s choice and then caught a line drive.
In the top of four, Baumgart fouled off two pitches with a full count to draw a walk and scored on Doblanko’s blast down the third-base line to the fence for a standup double to knot it at two.
Smitty’s replied with a pair in their next at-bat and then shut down the Pride the rest of the way.
Bender, 14, was a workhorse on the mound throughout the tournament and in the playoffs the right-hander showed her mettle.
“It’s a huge honour to say I can pitch those games but it’s also very nerve-wracking,” said the Grade 9 Lorne Akins School student. “I think I pitched better against Smitty's because they got less quality hits against me and I had a few strikeouts in that game too.
“My drop balls were working pretty well and I had a few good changeups that fooled a few batters.”
Halvorson finished the tournament with two home runs and Kormysh cleared the fence once.
The competition at westerns brought out the best in the Pride.
“They were all really well rounded teams. Not many people made errors. It just felt like a higher level than what we were used to playing,” Kidd said. “We just came together and played our very best. We really showed we could compete with everybody.”