After an absence of more than 25 years, Yukon will be represented at the Senior Men’s and Women’s Canadian Slo-Pitch Championships this August.
Following Softball Yukon’s qualifier tournament over the weekend at Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre, we now know which two teams will represent the territory.
Whitehorse’s Marlins will play in the men’s division and Whitehorse’s Fountain Tire Mudders will play in the women’s.
“We didn’t really expect to be the team going … but we’re excited to go,” said Marlins captain and shortstop Robin Smith.
“Our core has been playing together the last three years and then we picked up a couple other guys who we’re buddies with who were on different teams … All of us are early and mid 20s.”
The Marlins beat out four other teams in the qualifying tourney, topping the P&M Recycling Guns 19-8 in the final on Saturday.
They came up through the bottom of the draw after losing their opening game 20-16 to Dave’s Cleaning on Friday. The Marlins downed the Jay Hawks before beating Dave’s Cleaning 33-22 in the semi to reach the final.
“We just played good. We got hot in the previous game and just carried it over,” said Smith. “Our defence is always solid. We’ve got really fast guys in the outfield, so playing defence is to our advantage. We just got hot at the right time.”
“Tonight there was great play by everybody. We just hit our sticks hard and our defence was right on tight,” said Marlins’ Andrew Schmidt, who played third base in the final. “This year we knew we had a team who could do it.”
The Marlins never trailed in the final, taking a 2-0 lead in their first at-bat before dealing the Guns a three-up-three-down inning in the bottom of the first.
They eventually took a 10-run lead on a grand slam by Smith in the fifth inning, going up 15-5. The team also knocked four solo shots from Schmidt, Dakota Organ, Mike Wintemute and Brett Roulston.
“We came out real flat. We’re missing some key guys from our roster, but we called up some guys and they played really well,” said Guns captain and first baseman Mike Tuton. “We just came out flat. There was not a lot of hurraying in the dugout. If you look at (the Marlins’) dugout, they’re all out on the cage firing everybody up, cheering on others. There was none of that in ours.”
The Guns have long been a team to be reckoned with in Yukon softball. The Guns have won the men’s A division of the Whitehorse’s Dustball Invitational Slo-Pitch Tournament multiple times, including five straight between 2009 and 2013. They lost in last year’s final to a mixed Juneau-Skagway team.
The Guns also competed at the Slo-Pitch National Championships – a different national championship not sanctioned by Softball Canada – the last two years.
“We talked before the game, no matter what happened, those kids were going to the nationals,” said Tuton. “We probably weren’t going to go, we said that from the beginning.”
Yukon was last represented at the Canadian Slo-Pitch Championships in 1987 for men and 1989 for women, sources said.
This year’s championship will take place Aug. 9-15 in Dorchester, Ont.
“I’m very excited. I can’t wait,” said Schmidt. “It’s nice that it’s a hot weekend like this because we have to be used to it, playing in Ontario in mid-August.”
The Fountain Tire Mudders earned the spot at nationals with two straight wins over the Nuway Crushers in a best-of-three showdown. Only two women’s teams registered for the qualifying tournament.
“We’re all really excited to represent the Yukon,” said Mudders captain Roni-Sue Steinhagen. “We know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, so we’re planning a lot of practices and stuff to step up our game.
“One of the things I love about this team is we all play together and it’s definitely a team effort … It’s not one particular person who stands out.”
The Mudders won 23-13 Friday and 24-4 Saturday. They scored nine runs in the sixth inning in Friday’s game and six runs in the first inning of Saturday’s game.
“Our bats were on last night (Friday),” said Mudders outfielder Shelly Mitchell. “We had one inning that we didn’t have bats and the rest of the time it was hits, hits, hits.”
This season is the Mudders’ third together. They placed third in the women’s A division in the 2013 Dustball tourney and came second last year.
“I’m from Ontario and my family back home, we’re all big in ball,” said shortstop Jamie Taylor. “My family is proud I get to come down and represent Yukon now.”
A lot more Yukon teams are expected to enter Softball Yukon’s next qualifying tournament at the end of July. That one will select the teams who will compete at the 2016 Canadian Slo-Pitch Championships, which will be held at home in Whitehorse.
Softball Yukon was on the hook to send teams to this year’s championships as part of the deal of hosting next year’s, Softball Yukon executive director George Arcand told the News when the announcement was made in April.
“We will be sending teams to this year’s nationals because it’s based on us getting the championship – our teams need to travel, attend other locations as well,” said Arcand. “That was part of our bidding for it. We said we’d send teams.”
The 2016 championships won’t be Softball Yukon’s first time hosting a major event in recent years, nor will it be the last. Whitehorse was home to the 2008 International Softball Federation Junior Men’s World Championship, the 2012 ISF Women’s World Championship and the 2014 ISF Junior Men’s World Softball Championship. The Yukon capital will also host the ISF Men’s World Championship in the summer of 2017.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com