Two years ago was the last time the NWT Men’s Fastpitch Championship was held and it was the Cardinals which came out on top. There was no 2020 edition of the event for obvious reasons.
Fast-forward those two years and the it’s the same bunch who carted off the championship trophy but under a new moniker.
The Gastown Giants, formerly the Cardinals, successfully defended their title as they defeated the Matonabee Petroleum Trappers in the final in Hay River on Sunday by a score of 11-2 in a five-inning mercy. It capped off a perfect weekend for the Giants as they won all four of their contests on the way to victory.
The action actually began the day before as rain forced the opening night on Friday to be rained out. The seven teams, made up of four from the Yk Fastball League, two from Hay River and one from Fort Simpson, began play in the round-robin on Saturday but weren’t able to complete things until Sunday morning.
The Giants were able to, though, and they won both of their games to get a bye to the semifinal, where they took on the Fire Prevention Prospectors, a team which always seems to find itself in the mix in every tournament. It would be the Giants that would jump out to a big lead as they roughed up the Prospectors for seven runs in the first inning to take control early on.
But the Prospectors clawed their way back into it, chasing Giants starter Garrett Hinchey from the rubber and replacing him with Andy Williams.
“Andy came in and did well but they still got it back to 9-9,” said Giants infielder Brent Hinchey.
There would be heroics in the bottom of the seventh inning and it involved the aforementioned Hinchey.
With Jaden Beck on base, Hinchey got a hold of a Thomas pitch and hit it right back up the middle to score Beck with the winning run to walk it off, 10-9, and book their place in the final.
“You don’t always get those chances to pull it out like that,” said Hinchey. “Jaden stole two bases and got himself over to third base to get in scoring position. There were a lot of excited guys in that dugout when we got it.”
The Trappers, meanwhile, had a marathon day on Sunday. They had to finish off the round-robin at 8 a.m., followed by a quarter-final game – one they won – and then off to the semifinal versus the Hay River Heat. It turned out to be a defensive battle in the truest sense as the Trappers managed to hold off the Heat, 20-19, to move on to the final.
As noble as it was for the Trappers to run the table and get into the title contest, Hinchey said he knew they would be playing a team that was running on fumes.
“We could tell they were done,” he said. ‘We were definitely the fresher team – we were sitting on the grass for three hours waiting for the winner – and we managed to do it in five (innings).”
Unlike the 2018 tournament, which featured only one day of action – a single-knockout tournament on the Sunday – this year had at least a couple of days of action, something Hinchey was thankful for.
“We lost Friday and we started thinking the worst,” he said. “We got delayed on Saturday but thank goodness the sun came out on Sunday. Hay River did a great job of hosting it.”