Things being what they are right now, there won’t be any territorial championships hosted by NWT Softball.
But that didn’t stop five teams – two from Yellowknife, two from Hay River and one from Fort Simpson – from hitting the fields in Hay River over the weekend for the Hay River Invitational Fastpitch Tournament and it produced some of the more exciting softball seen in the NWT for quite some time.
The Home Building Centre Cardinals came out on top of the heap after beating the Matonabee Petroleum Trappers in the final by a score of 7-6 in extra innings. Devin Penney played the hero’s role as his base hit plated the winning run.
Andy Williams of the Cardinals said it was a great weekend of softball all around.
“Those playoff games were some of the best ones I’ve ever played in,” he said.
The Cardinals didn’t start their round-robin until the Saturday morning, which meant a long day of action but they managed to navigate it pretty well, winning three and tying one, the draw coming against the Hay River Pirates. It was good enough to advance to the semifinal, where they would meet up with the Pirates once again and just like the first meeting, this one was a close encounter.
The only difference was there would be a winner as this was an elimination game.
Regulation softball solved nothing as both teams were tied, 7-7, after seven innings, meaning the international tiebreaker rule came into effect. That’s where the last batter from the last inning heads to second base to start the eighth inning; both teams get to play that way.
Each team scored once in the eighth inning to make it 8-8, meaning another go-round of international tiebreak softball. The Cardinals would eventually shut the door on the Pirates as they scored to win, 9-8, in nine innings.
“That was a tough game but we knew they would give us a hard time,” said Williams.
The final went the same way as the regulation seven innings ended up deadlocked at 4-4. The Trappers looked to be in command as they scored two runs in the top half of the eighth inning to take a 6-4 lead.
But if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll know the Cardinals are never out of it and they stormed back with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to walk off with the win.
Penney’s championship-winning hit didn’t come without paying the price as he ended up with a foot injury which saw him try to make it to first base any which way he could.
“It was a hard-hit ball,” said Williams. “I looked up to see it go into the gap in the outfield and there’s Devin crawling to first base.”
There was no word as of press time as to the extent of Penney’s injury.
Terry Rowe, president of the fastpitch association in Hay River, said it turned out to be a great weekend with no incidents.
Distancing was also strictly adhered to, he added.
“We talked with (the Chief Public Health Officer) and we were able to get 100 people for the entire park, which was 50 for each field,” he said. “We also got 50 for the beer gardens as well but we closed off the entrance to that from the stands.”
Keeping the attendance at 100 for the park was done by selling weekend passes, which were mostly scooped up by players who brought their families, said Rowe.
Hay River was scheduled to host the NWT Men’s Fastpitch Championship this year and while Covid-19 scuttled those plans, Williams said he’s happy to have been able to hit the road to play tournament ball this year.
“It’s nice to get out of town and it’s a good change of scenery, considering all that’s going on,” he said.