For the first time since anyone can remember, there was a territorial softball championship for youth only.
And for the first time since anyone can remember, Hay River hoisted the big trophy at the end.
The Hay River Pirates are your 2021 U16 NWT Softball Championship winners courtesy of a 12-4 win over the Yellowknife Wolverines outfit coached by Jenn Lukas on Sunday afternoon in Yellowknife. The win capped off a perfect weekend for the Pirates though Team Lukas didn’t make things easy for them in the early going of the decider.
The Wolverines opened the scoring in the top of the first inning but the Pirates answered back in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 1-1. After that, though, the Pirates found their stride and opened things up in the third inning with four to take a 5-1 lead and never looked back from that point.
Pirates coach Keith Pettipas said a large part of the Pirates managing to hold down the fort was due to the performance of his son, Owen Pettipas, and his pitching in the final.
“Owen was on top of his game on the weekend,” he said. “He shut the door in the final.”
The Pirates had the luxury of sorts of getting to wait until Saturday afternoon to play their first game in the five-team double-knockout tournament. Having won all of their games up to the final, the Pirates had the luxury of home-field advantage in the decider on the final day.
The last time a team from Hay River played a team from Yellowknife at this age level was the U16 jamboree held at Keith Broadhead Memorial Park last month, where Yellowknife ended up leaving with the title.
Coach Pettipas said he didn’t know how his team would do this time around.
“When they came here, we only won one out of our three games,” he said. “They beat us and a large part of that was we weren’t hitting the ball very well. We got our bats going this time but we still didn’t know how good it would end up.”
As for being territorial champions, coach Pettipas said he didn’t even know it was for real until the end of it all.
“No idea it was a territorial championship until we finished,” he said with a laugh.
As mentioned, the last time a youth territorial softball championship happened in the NWT is anyone’s guess but Lukas said she hopes this will be the start of a rebirth for the youth at the territorial level.
“The idea was to start small and have it turn into a kind of ‘If you build it, they will come’ thing,” she said. “I’m hoping that we could see teams from the Beaufort Delta in future years. I know Fort Simpson is looking to get some kind of youth program back up and running.”
The minor ball season is about to wrap up in Hay River with maybe a couple of practices left to go, said coach Pettipas.
“We’ll wrap it up with something fun,” he said.