All aboard to Nationals: Napanee U17 Express go unbeaten at eliminations

Jacob Moore of the Napanee Canadian Tire U17 Express swings at a pitch during the OASA Eliminations. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Not even a full day of rain could derail the Napanee Canadian Tire U17 Express, who were a perfect 4-0 at the OASA Eliminations, held June 28-30 at the Fairgrounds.

Steady rain washed out the entire schedule on Saturday, which meant the three day tournament had to be condensed into two. Napanee’s offence stayed hot despite the unexpected interruption, posting 41 runs in the four games played.

“It was a really good weekend,” said Express coach Scott Thompson. “We haven’t hit outstanding yet this year until this weekend. It was great to see everybody come together and start hitting the ball like they did.”

They capped the tournament late Sunday night with an 8-0 win over the Wilmot Thunder.

Napanee did the majority of their damage in the fourth, scoring six times during a rally that started harmlessly enough with an RBI ground out by Aidan Difazio. The Express bats were just getting started however as Deke Osterhout singled to drive in a pair. Finn Barton cleared the bases with a two-run triple and Carter Wright drew a bases loaded walk.

Meanwhile from the pitcher’s circle, Nate Wylie was dealing for the Express, shutting out the Thunder over five innings while striking out eight, allowing just one hit.

Matthew Airhart of the Napanee U17 Express slides in safely to third. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Napanee opened the tournament with a 15-5 mercy win over the Tara Twins, banging out 14 hits along the way.

Wylie, Bryce Rebertz and Wright all hit doubles in the first inning, each driving in a run. Owen Kish, Dylan Kemp and Osterhout each drove in a pair.

Kemp was helping out his own cause as he got the start, striking out three over four innings.

When play resumed on Sunday the Express bested their cross-county rival Amherstview A’s, 7-2.

Wylie struck out 11, allowing two runs on seven hits.

Napanee came out swinging with a run in the first courtesy an RBI single from Kemp.

They continued to add on in the second as Jacob Moore singled in a run, Kemp drew a bases loaded walk and Wylie cashed a run while grounding into a double play.

Billy Woottan and Jack Marshall each drove in a run to account for Amherstview’s offense.

With the win the Express advanced to the undefeated game against Wilmot, with a direct trip to the finals on the line.

The two rivals clashed in another classic, with Napanee prevailing 11-7 in extra innings.

Napanee loaded the bases in the top of the ninth and cashed a run when Kemp drew a bases loaded walk. Kish delivered the huge blow, a two run single.

Napanee had to work a little rally magic just to get it to extra innings as they entered their final at bat down 6-5. Matt Airhart came up clutch with an RBI single to tie the game. Napanee took the lead in the eighth on an Osterhout sac fly, only to see the Thunder respond with a run in the bottom half to force another extra frame.

Napanee took chances on the base paths and it paid off with six successful stolen bases. They needed all the offence they could get as the Thunder matched them run for run through the first seven innings. Ultimately the Express were able to claw out the victory and then rode that momentum to the big 8-0 win in the finals.

“It seems like we really have really good, high intensity games against Wilmot,” said Thompson. “We were lucky this time to come out on top twice, one of them was an extra innings game. They always compete.”

Napanee’s first place finish clinches a berth to Nationals, which will take place in St-Gervais, Que, starting Aug. 6.

Wilmot’s silver finish, Chatsworth bronze and a fourth place finish by Havelock mean they too qualify and will represent Ontario at Nationals.

“It was great getting contributions up and down the lineup, we’d bring someone in and he’d get a hit,” Thompson said of Napanee’s 4-0 run. “We’d bring someone in and he’d get a walk. We’d bring someone in and they’d get a hit. It was really great to see and there were really were contributions up and down the lineup this weekend and we were really happy to see that.”

Photo by Softball Napanee

They combined that with great pitching as well as Wylie was named the tournament’s ace.

Next up for the Express will be to compete in the Carp Shootout Tournament July 20 followed by provincials, which will be held as part of the Ontario Summer Games, held in London.

Following provincials on the August long weekend, they will head right to Nationals.

In what was a busy week for Thompson, the Napanee coach was also named as assistant coach for Team Ontario’s U19 women’s team for the 2025 Summer Games. Thompson worked with this group of females all through last winter as they get set to narrow their roster down to the final cuts on July 17.

“That’s been an outstanding experience,” said Thompson. “We have Joe Malisani as the head coach, Courtney Gilbert as the assistant. We have an outstanding group of pool coaches and we worked together at two camps a month all last winter and then ended up in Florida in March.”

They’ve continued to work through the winter and spring as they prepare for the 2025 Canada Games, which will be held in Newfoundland.

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