Perseverance was the word of the weekend for the Napanee Peewee Express, who twice had to rally late in games en route to gold at the OASA U14 Eliminations, held this weekend in Napanee.
Down a run in the sixth inning of Sunday’s gold medal game against Chatsworth, the Express were able to battle back to score three times. Chatsworth would add a run in the seventh to make it interesting, but Napanee was able to shut the door and finish the tournament undefeated. Along with capturing the gold, they also earned the right to represent Ontario at the Canadian U14 Softball Championships in Saskatoon, Sask. July 27-31.
Napanee opened the tournament with an 11-0 win over Westport on Friday but found themselves in a bit of trouble Saturday morning. Facing New Hamburg’s second entry, the Express fell behind 2-0 and struggled to mount much offense through the first three innings. Napanee had its chances, including a lead-off triple by Ty Kemp in the third, but just couldn’t string hits together. After two quick outs to open the fourth, the bats finally broke through. Following a two out walk, Luke Paul put the Express on the board with a RBI single. Brandon Barker kept the rally going with an RBI double to knot the game at 2-2.
The Express settled in from there, scoring another seven unanswered runs for an 11-2 victory.
“That was a crucial point in the tournament for us,” Express head coach Stephen Paul said of the late rally to avoid falling to the losing bracket in the double-knockout tournament. “We were able to come back as strongly as we did in that game, from that point forward we were rolling from an offensive and defensive side of things and played extremely well.”
Napanee topped New Hamburg’s first entry 9-2 in Sunday’s undefeated game to advance to the gold medal game.
Their tight battle with Chatsworth in the finals was a good test for the club, which is made up of a mix of players who have nationals experience as well as five who are heading to their first Canadian championship.
“There were six very strong teams in the tournament,” said Paul. “Elimination tournaments we found in the past is possibly the hardest to actually win. You’re looking at 18 teams over three days and the pressures of those games. That will bode well for us when we move onto the Canadians. Our last few games we were against tough competition and we played extremely well. Those are the games that make you better and help us as we move towards our next goal at the Canadians.”
Gavin Brooks, who shined both from the pitcher’s circle and as the team’s clean up hitter, was awarded the tournament MVP.
“It was a complete team effort,” added Paul. That’s required to win these type of tournaments and those close games. Everyone on the roster contributed and that’s what’s really made us successful all weekend long.”
The Express will return to weekly league games over the next three weeks to stay sharp before heading west for the Canadians.
-Napanee’s AFW Construction U19 Express also captured an eliminations medal this weekend, earning bronze in Carp.
The reigning national champion Express entered the tournament having already qualified for Canadians by virtue of being the defending champions. Still they were on a mission to post a strong showing and did just that.
On Friday they blanked Jarvis 7-0 and then thumped Osgoode 17-2 on Saturday morning.
Severe weather conditions interrupted their game against Shallow Lake, but when it resumed on Sunday, the Express held on for an 8-7 victory in eight innings.
Facing off against Kitchener-Waterloo in the undefeated game, the Express fell just sort in a 6-5 defeat. They lost to Belmore 12-4 to end their tournament in third place. Kitchener-Waterloo would go on to defeat Belmore in the gold medal game.
The U19 Express will now prepare for the Canadian U19 Fast Pitch Championships, which run Aug. 6-11 in Owen Sound.