All four Yukon teams were out before the playoffs at the Men’s and Women’s Canadian Slo-Pitch Championship last week at Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre.
But all four — Dave’s Cleaning Crew and the P&M Recycling Guns in the men’s, and P&M Recycling/Orange Technology Sistas and the Yukon Titans in the women’s — aren’t crying over it. Just playing a national championship in their hometown was a great experience on its own, players said.
“It was a lot of fun. We’ve waited a long time — I’ve been playing with that team for 20 years and it’s the first time we got to play at home in a national championship event,” said Guns captain Michael Tuton. “Unfortunately it was an A division, but I think we had the right attitude going into it and we learned a lot about the game. We learned a lot about defences and ways to play so next year we’ll compete again and be that much better.”
“It was a great time. Our team did really well and we just had a lot of fun,” said Sistas pitcher Shanna Epp.
“We had a really great game against the (B.C.) Bombsquad, we played well against N.W.T., had a great game against the other local Yukon team, the Titans. But against the Bombsquad it was really good ball and great to be a part of.”
Three out of the four Yukon teams logged wins last week, which was a big improvement over winless streaks at last year’s championship in Ontario.
One Whitehorse player took in a special honour. Dave’s Cleaning Crew centre fielder Mike Arnold went error free and was named Top Defensive Player for the men’s tournament. Arnold was also a dynamo at the plate, batting .741, placing him 15th in the overall tournament standings at the end of the round robin.
“He started off slightly slow, but as soon as he got that first game out of the way he went on a rampage,” said Dave’s captain James Semaschuk. “There was no team that could pick what he was doing up there. He ran right through them and that’s what we expected from our leadoff hitter.
“He’s capable of playing at such a high level and he doesn’t even know it.”
The Sistas squad took its share of lopsided losses, but it’s the only Yukon team to put two checkmarks in the win column. The Sistas topped the N.W.T. Inuvik Angels 34-18 and the Yukon Titans 22-7 to finish the round robin with a 2-6 record. They also had a tight 19-17 loss to the B.C. Bombsquad.
“Everyone contributed to the team,” said Epp. “A special shout out to Russ (Smoler) our coach who came out. We started practicing mid winter, so it was a big time commitment.”
Dave’s Cleaning Crew swept up a pair of highlights from the championship. They opened with a 17-9 win over the N.W.T. Inuvik Native Yankees and then narrowly lost 21-20 to the Ontario Mizuno Canucks, who went on to take silver.
“There were some great things that happened, there were also some things that we could work on a lot more,” said Semaschuk. “Fielding, the guys were pretty rock solid. I couldn’t expect more fielding wise. But hitting is what we’re going to have to work next season.”
“Ultimately, if you’re able to go to the seventh inning with a lot of these teams, that means you went the distance with them and we didn’t get mercied because of the run rule,” he added. “For the Yukon teams here, we put up a lot of runs, were competitive and at the end of the day all I can ask is for the guys to be competitive.”
The Yukon Titans also came away with a win and a close loss. The Titans downed the Inuvik Angels 20-11 before dropping a 11-9 battle to Ontario’s Miken Freaks in their final game on Thursday.
“I feel like we played a lot better defensively and offensively than we did last year. It’s just that these teams are really good,” said Titans captain Roni-Sue Steinhagen. “We did have a lot of fun, a good time playing these teams.
“We play better when we’re having a good time and enjoying the game. We don’t do as well when we’re aren’t cheering each other on for each play, each hit. When we’re quiet, we don’t do as well.”
The P&M Recycling Guns just couldn’t pull the trigger when they had their chance. The Guns went winless but had a tight one against the eventual gold medal winners – the Miken HR Sports Orioles from Ontario. Sure 29-16 doesn’t sound too close, but the Guns had a 9-0 lead after three inning and went into the sixth tied 11-11.
“They woke up. They didn’t like being taken the distance by the Yukon team,” said Tuton. “They woke up and spanked us in the last inning. But what a game.”
“It was really nice to see a lot of our new guys get into the games and show their colours,” he added. “A lot of our first- and second-year guys really stepped up, so the future is looking good for the Guns.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org