Late offense leads U19 Express to Eastern Canadian gold

Napanee's U19 Express after winning gold at the U19 Eastern Canadians, held in New Brunswick.

Adam Prudhomme

Win an Eastern Canadians gold medal while avenging an earlier defeat in the process-for the Napanee Express U19 girls softball team, Sunday’s 11-3 win over London checked both those boxes.

Clinging to a 4-3 lead heading into the seventh innings of the gold medal game in Fredericton, NB, the Express bats erupted for seven runs to put the game out of reach. Napanee had trailed 2-0 early in the game before chipping away to take the late lead and then iced the victory with a big inning in their final at bat.

The win capped a 7-1 weekend for the champion Express. It also allowed Napanee to exact a bit of revenge on London, who topped them in their previous meeting at provincials, held earlier this month. With a chance to play for provincial gold on the line in that game, the two teams were tied 3-3 before London’s bats roared to life, scoring eight runs in the top of the seventh. With the season’s top prize on the line, this time around it was the Express who had the late game magic on their side.

In order to reach the finals the Express had to survive a nervous finish in their semifinal game against Tavistock, a team that had beaten Napanee three of four times this season, including in the finals of the Grand Championships qualifier in July. Following that loss, Express coach Scott Morrow stated he expected to face that same Tavistock team in an important game at the Eastern Canadians-a prediction that proved to be 100 per cent accurate.

Amber Weese delivered a key hit and scored the Express’ third run of the game to help them to a 3-1 lead heading into the seventh.

After a strong start from Megan Morrow, the Express turned to Payton Barkley, a first year bantam added to the roster to help strengthen the pitching staff, to close out the game. Tavistock made it interesting, scratching out a run and loading the bases with the heart of the order due up. Barkley slammed the door from there however, closing out the game and advancing the Express to the gold medal game.

“It was tense,” recalled coach Morrow.

Napanee opened the tournament Friday night with a 7-0 win over Nova Scotia. Megan Morrow picked up the win while Jordan Mumby was on base three times and scored three runs.

In their second game they met the same Tavistock team they’d face in the semifinals. Nikki Weese, another first year bantam added to Napanee’s roster, was 3-for-3 with two runs scored as the game was knotted at 5-5 through six innings. Tavistock would score three in their final at-bat to take the 8-5 win to drop Napanee to 1-1 at the time, though it would go down as their only loss of the tournament.

Napanee regrouped with a 6-3 win over PEI’s second team in their next game with Kylie Morrow picking up two hits and scoring a pair of runs. Lauren Kennedy earned the win.

The Express closed out the round robin with a 9-2 win over the host team with Kylie Morrow collecting the win.

Finishing second in their pool, the Express were matched up with PEI’s second team in their first playoff game, cruising to a 7-0 win. Natalie Clemens went 3-for-4 at the plate.

Napanee kept rolling in their next playoff game, topping PEI’s first entry 8-1, with Amber Weese picking up a single, double and triple.

That victory moved them to the top four, where they’d go on to defeat Tavistock and London to win the gold.

“It was a great team effort,” said coach Morrow. “We started the tournament with 10 players on Friday, Maddy Cronkwright flew in Saturday morning to give us 11 and we had to utilize all 11 girls. All four of our pitchers pitched in a game, Lauren Kennedy won a game, Kylie Morrow pitched and won a game, Payton Barkley threw the big game against Tavistock and then Megan won four games.”

For her efforts, Megan Morrow was named the tournament’s MVP.

Now Eastern Canadian champions, there was a time not too long ago when there was some uncertainty as to whether or not Softball Napanee would even field a girls team at the midget level. After not having enough players last year, there was just enough interest among local players to give it a go this year.

“The girls’ loyalty to each other, they got back together,” said the coach. “We brought in a few good players to help supplement them and brought in a couple of new coaches to change it up a bit and then we went on to success, Napanee’s first Eastern Canadian gold at the midget level.”

Along with Eastern Canadian gold, the girls also earned silver at the Eastern Canadians qualifier and bronze at provincials to mark an extremely successful 2019 season.

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