Not even Hollywood could have scripted a more dramatic ending for the Napanee Boyer GM U12 Express, who overcame long odds several times to capture provincial goal at the U12 OASA championship in Ponsonby.
An earlier loss in the playoff round meant the Express would have to go through the only two teams to beat them all year-Wilmot and West Carleton-without a single loss in order to clinch gold.
“It was the best day of softball I’ve ever been a part of,” said Express coach Scott Thompson. “We started warming up at 10 a.m. and we got off the field at 7:30 p.m. (Sunday) night.”
Napanee’s bats came out swinging against Wilmot, rolling to a 15-2 victory to reach the final against West Carleton. Their opponents still held a double life, meaning Napanee would have to win twice if they were to win the provincial title.
In the first game, Napanee entered the seventh inning down a run. With two outs and down to their last strike, the Express began an improbable run to gold. Matt Airhart connected on a double to chase home the tying run, kick starting a huge rally. The Express would stun West Carleton with a 12-7 win and live to play a winner-take-all final.
West Carleton roared to a 5-0 lead, only to see the Express battle back to tie. Down 9-5, again the Express fought back to tie it.
Napanee’s miracle run appeared to be over in the bottom of the seventh, when West Carleton pushed runners to second and third with just one out. An intentional walk loaded the bases, where just a sac fly could end it all. Napanee kept their composure however, executing a force play from third to home for the second out, then inducing a ground out to second to close out the inning tied at 9-9.
“The parents and all the coached lost years off their lives,” joked Thompson. “When we escaped that bases loaded, one out jam, we knew we had a pretty good shot with the top of our lineup coming up in the eight. They put up three and shut them down after that.”
Napanee wrapped up their 12-9 victory and the celebration began. Thompson said he was proud to see both teams exchange hugs in the handshake lineup as both clubs displayed great sportsmanship.
“The mental toughness, resiliency, the passion that the kids showed for each other and for themselves was unbelievable,” Thompson said of the Express. “They were far beyond their years.”
Making up the Express roster was Deek Osterhout, Dylan Kemp, Kayden Thompson, Airhart, Tivon James, Aiden Difazio, Owen Kish, Ryan Kyle, Coulson South, Lucas Lions, Logan Willis and Brody Nielissen.
Napanee’s provincial gold at the squirt level matches the national gold the U14 and U16 Express boys captured earlier in the season, continuing summer of gold for Softball Napanee.