The Calahoo Erins softball team won their third straight national championship on Aug. 14 in Saskatoon, Sask.
The Erins, a competitive adult club team, don't play in an official league each season, rather, they compete in as many tournaments as possible.
The athletes' age range is generally 20 to 55 and the roster is made up of players from Calgary and Edmonton, and the surrounding areas. Most of the players have previously played competitive softball in university, or still play at the university level.
In Saskatoon, the Erins were determined to defend their national championship title from 2019, as this year's tournament was the first in two years because of COVID cancellations. The club automatically earned a spot for this year's nationals because of their 2019 title.
To win the championship in August, the team played 11 games over a span of just five days.
"It was a grind, especially at that level," said Camille Czarnecki, 31, who pitches and plays first base.
The Erins started tournament play on Aug. 10 with a 9-1 victory over the Saskatoon Synergy in the morning, and a 7-2 victory over the QC Equipe du Quebec U23 team in the evening.
The club's hot start didn't last long, though, as the Erins dropped both of their games on Aug. 11. They lost 7-0 to the host team, the Saskatoon G-Force, and 6-3 to the Carnduff Southeast Steelers from Carnduff, Sask.
However, the club wouldn't lose another game, and in fact, they went on to allow only one run over their next seven games.
Indeed, the Erins miraculously completed six straight shutouts on their way to the finals. The team crushed the Saskatoon Sabres 15-0 as well as Ontario's Napanee Express 7-0 on Aug. 12. In their lone game on Aug. 13, the Erins beat the Saskatoon Shock 4-0.
On Aug. 14, the last day of the championships, the Erins played four games in just 10 hours.
"I was definitely exhausted by the fourth game — if we had to do a fifth, I don’t know how the team would’ve done," Czarnecki said.
Because of some heavy rain the night before, the Erins had to play their last round robin game on the morning of championship day — they defeated QC Equipe du Quebec again by a score of 7-0.
In the quarter-finals, the Erins knocked out the Saskatoon Synergy with a 7-0 win, and in the semi-finals, the Erins got revenge over the Saskatoon G-Force with a 2-0 victory.
In the finals, the Erins were scored on for the first time since Aug. 11, but managed to defeat the Carnduff team 2-1 to capture their third straight title.
"Not many teams in Alberta, or anywhere, have won three in a row, so it’s pretty exciting,” Czarnecki said.
“I think our defence came together at the right time."
Some lights-out pitching performances and world-class defence allowed the Erins to rack up six straight shutout victories on their way to the title.
Alexis Lucyshyn, 20, pitched 31.2 of the Erins' 63.2 total tournament innings, and finished with a 1.71 earned run average, 32 strikeouts, and four of the team's wins, including two of the shutouts.
“When I was pitching, I knew I could count on my defence to back me up," Lucyshyn said on a phone call from the University of Buffalo, where she plays for the university's softball team, the Bulls, and studies exercise science.
Lucyshyn was born and raised in Calgary, and 2022 was her first full summer with the club after she played in a couple of tournaments with the team in 2021.
“I’ll have this bond with my teammates and this memory with me for a long time," Lucyshyn said, adding that she hopes to play for the Erins again next summer to try and defend the title.
Lucyshyn was no slouch on offence throughout the tournament either, as she led the team in runs batted in with nine, and hit the team's only home run.
Czarnecki led the team in hits with 12 and was tied for the lead in doubles with three.
Czarnecki's two pitching appearances were both against the Saskatoon G-Force. In her first appearance, which the G-Force won 7-2, Czarnecki was pulled after two innings after the G-Force scored four runs on her.
In the semi-finals, though, Czarnecki went 6.1 innings without giving up a run before Lucyshyn took over to close out the game.
"I think it took us a little bit to get it together but our defence, by our last day, definitely was on fire," Czarnecki said. "That's for sure."
The Erins will look to win their fourth straight national championship in Montreal next August.