Editor’s note: The story has been updated to correct that the Cardinals and Prospectors have won the last five tournaments between them and that Brady Daniels is also a member of the Trappers.
The Fire Prevention Prospectors’ reign at the top of the men’s fastball food chain in the NWT is over.
The Home Building Centre Cardinals replaced the Prospectors as kings of the fastpitch mountain in the territory thanks to their 9-4 win over the Prospectors in the final of the NWT Men’s Fastpitch Championship in Fort Simpson on July 28.
Cardinals pitcher Garrett Hinchey said his team was happy to get the win against a team which has fast become their new rivals.
“We’ve ended up taking turns winning the last five tournaments with them,” he said. “It’s gone back and forth but it was the first time playing them in a final and they were the team we wanted to play against.”
The Prospectors finished atop the standings following the round-robin and defeated the host South Nahanni Twins of Fort Simpson in their semifinal while the Cardinals, which finished second after the round-robin, was forced to come from behind in their semifinal to beat the Hay River Heat, 9-8.
Mike Auge, who now calls Hay River home, was picked up by his former team for the weekend’s festivities and he played the hero’s role, hitting a walk-off base hit score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
To make it seem more exciting, the Cardinals were down to their final out and were down by one.
“We were kind of looking at the situation with a silver lining,” said Hinchey. “We can hit the highway earlier if we lose but Hay River was charged up because they haven’t beaten us in a long time.”
Approaching the final for the Cardinals came with the strategy of solving Prospectors pitcher Steve Thomas, who has been one of the more dominant pitchers in recent memory in the NWT.
Hinchey said the pre-game chat talked about trying to get balls into play as often as possible.
“Choke up on the bat and force them to get us out on the basepath,” he said.
It worked in the early going as the Cardinals put up a four-spot on Thomas in the first inning to take the early lead but the Prospectors chipped away and cut that lead in half to 4-2 by the fourth inning. The Cardinals scored in the top of the fifth to increase the lead to 5-2 only to have the Prospectors score two of their own in the bottom half to close the gap to 5-4.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh inning as the Cardinals managed to do in that inning what they did in the first and plate four runs to give them a 9-4 cushion.
“The top of the order was up for us in the top half and that’s where we opened it up,” said Hinchey. “We scored two quick ones and then Jaden Beck drove in two more.”
Beck’s appearance in the final was rather motivating for the Cardinals as he dislocated his shoulder in the semifinal, he added.
“We popped it back in and he was our designated (player) for the final,” he said. “We just had to avoid the blow-up in the bottom half of the inning.”
The Prospectors did get two runners on in the bottom half but Hinchey was able to shut the door on the rubber to seal the deal and the title for the Cardinals.
Both teams had pick-ups from other league teams for the tournament with the Matonabee Petroleum Trappers furnishing both teams with some help.
Hinchey said the four Trappers players they were able to snag – Brady Daniels, Devin Case, Devin Hinchey and John White – fit in just nicely.
“My brother and Devin Case were both hitting behind me in the order and they were great,” he said. “They play just like we do and they had no trouble fitting in with our line-up.”
This was the first fastpitch tournament in Fort Simpson in several years and Hinchey said the village did a great job in its re-debut.
“It’s great to have fastpitch back there,” he said. “That was a big weekend for them and they put on a great show. Everyone from here was happy to go and I hope to go back the next time they host it.”