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Softball Angels ascend to national championships

St. Albert’s premier U15 and U17 teams claim provincial championships and set sights on Canada’s top tournament
Members of the U17 St. Albert Angels pose with members of Team Great Britain at the Canada Cup tournament in advance of Softball Canada's national championship event. FASTBALL ST. ALBERT/ Supplied

The St. Albert Angels U15A and U17A softball teams solidified their status as the best in the province, winning the Softball Alberta Championships and punching their tickets to the national championships.

Grit and teamwork have brought them this far, and they are eager for their next challenge at the prestigious Softball Canada Nationals.

The U15 Angels, under the leadership of coach Jim Harvie, boast a formidable 29-7-1 record on the season. As they prepare for the Canadian Fastpitch Championship in Brandon, MB, the team continues to work with consistent training sessions and exhibition games.

"We’re still doing our normal practices,” Harvie said. “This weekend, we’re also trying to set up some exhibition games in Sherwood Park. There are four teams that are going on from provincials: we’re going to nationals with Calgary, and Sherwood Park, and Lloydminster are going to Westerns. The four of us are going to try to meet up to play some games in order to stay as sharp as possible.”

Despite the on-field challenges that nationals presents, both Angels groups remain confident and committed. They have seen a blend of returning and fresh players, creating a powerful synergy of peppy rookies and seasoned veterans. Particularly for the U15A team, a blend of experienced players from last year's U15 team and new entrants from a strong U13 team that won provincials last year have shaped a robust squad.

"Seven of our players are returning players from last year’s U15 team, and the rest moved up from a really strong U13 team [that also won provincials last year]," Harvie said.

Looking back at the season, Harvie remarks on the team's strong performances, which saw them overcoming tough competitors like Sherwood Park and Lloydminster at provincials.

"We beat some really good was sweet to beat [Lloydminster] in provincials," he said. However, he also acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead. "It’s a big step to go from provincials to nationals. But we’ve got a good team. They play hard — there are no quitters on our team." 

For the U17 Angels, nationals come on the heels of a stellar performance at the Canada Cup tournament.

The team, coached by Brett Harvie, finished fifth out of 27 teams. Highlights from that tournament include defeating Team Australia twice, and besting Great Britain in a playoff matchup.

"The calibre of opponents we faced from the US, BC, and the international teams will be very similar to the calibre of competition we’ll face at nationals," Harvie said, noting they have responded well to setbacks and bounced back in subsequent matches.

However, amidst the celebrations and preparation, the Angels organization voices frustration about a persistent challenge at home in St. Albert: a place to play. The city lacks a dedicated softball facility, relegating the teams to school diamonds that lack even the most basic amenities. 

"St. Albert has a dedicated baseball park and a dedicated slow pitch park both for men," Brett Harvie said. "But in our own community, all of our teams are relegated to playing on unmaintained school diamonds. Apparently we will even be losing one of the few diamonds we do have because the city plans to build an outdoor rink in its place.

“We are the only community this size in Alberta that doesn’t have a dedicated softball facility. And it is tough to explain to our athletes why we are stuck at random school fields while their brothers who play baseball or their dads who play slowpitch have terrific facilities.”

Despite that challenge, the Angels are proud representatives of St. Albert. As they head to Manitoba, they hope their achievements will not only put them on the national softball map but also shine a spotlight on the challenges they face at home, inspiring changes for the betterment of the sport and its athletes in St. Albert.

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