Originally published in the Kindersley Clarion (July 10, 2013)
It didn’t start the way coach Randy Ervine had hoped, but after a rough start to the weekend, the UK Royals cruised to the U21 ‘B’ women’s provincial softball title Sunday evening at Unity and District Regional Park.
The Royals, comprised of ladies from Unity and Kindersley, hosted the provincial championship July 5 to 7. Competition was expected to be fierce with eight teams traveling to Unity from across the province to fight for one of two tickets to the Western Canadian Championships slated for July 24 to 28 in Leduc.
Coach Ervine’s Royals opened the weekend with an 8-7 loss to the Moosomin Predators Friday night.
“We knew we would probably be a little rusty,” said UK Royals catcher Marley Ervine. “We had chances where we could have scored more runs in that game but we ran ourselves out of the innings with some not-so-good base-running.”
Following the loss to Moosomin, the Royals would bounce back to secure second place in their pool with dominant 15-1 and 17-2 victories over the Moose Jaw Lasers and Saskatoon Erical Eclipse, respectively.
The last-place team from each pool was eliminated while the first-place team earned a bye to the semi-finals.
The Royals would then face the third-place Alameda Royals from the white pool. In a back-and-forth game, the UK Royals fell behind 5-1 before turning the tables on Alameda, storming back to eliminate the deficit and move on to a quarter-finals rematch against the Saskatoon Erical Eclipse.
The win would mean coach Ervine and the Royals would need to play and win four games on Sunday if they were to take home the U21 provincial belt. Not exactly an easy task for any team, let alone one that had already played four games in the previous 41 hours and didn’t have the luxury of a long spring season heading into the tournament.
Knocking off the Eclipse via mercy rule in five innnings, the Royals would then be faced with overcoming a talented Saskatoon Co-op G-Force team in the semi-finals.
“They’re a bunch of university girls that are in a division-one league in the city,” coach Ervine said. “We knew they would be tough. ”
After going down 3-0 to the G-Force, coach Ervine’s Royals stormed back, putting up six straight runs to win 6-3 and secure a spot at the U21 Western Canadian Championships in Leduc, as well as a rematch in the provincial final against a familiar opponent — the Moosomin Predators.
With the Royals having traveled the long route to the championship, they would need to beat Moosomin not once, but twice in order to claim the U21 title.
“(Friday night against Moosomin) we ended up getting a few runs to make a comeback,” Marley said. “It kind of planted the seed in their head that we weren’t going to give up. I think they were probably hoping they wouldn’t see us again.”
The Royals got out to a quick start against the Predators, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before the Predators clawed their way back into the game.
Moosomin would only keep the game close for what seemed like a moment. With two runners on base, Royals catcher Marley Ervine stepped up to the plate and crushed a towering home run to give her team the lead for good. The Royals went ahead 8-3 courtesy of Marley’s blast and would cruise to the win. It was Marley’s first-ever home run.
“I knew there was a good chance to score some runs there,” Marley said. “A home run didn’t cross my mind at all. I just wanted to put the ball in play and not be out.
“When I hit it, it felt good. I saw it in the air and it looked pretty high. Once I got to first base I knew it was gone.”
The two teams would have a short break before hitting the diamond one last time in a winner-take-all affair.
The game got off to a nervous start for both sides, with Moosomin corralling that energy to produce an early 3-0 lead. Apart from two rather meaningless runs late in the game, that would be it at the plate for the Predators as the Royals cranked out seven straight runs, winning 7-5 to take the U21 ‘B’ women’s provincial championship.
In a confusing end to the day, the UK Royals would earn the last out of the game courtesy of a miscue on the base-path from the Predators. With one out on the board and runners on first and second, a sailing fly ball found it’s way into shallow centre field. Royals centre fielder Natalie Kiefer charged in to make a spectacular grab to get the second out of the inning. Kiefer then gunned the ball back to the infield to prevent any runs from scoring. Marley, racing out from behind home plate, grabbed the attention of Charnele Jellison at third base — the Predators base runner had failed to tag up at second. Jellison made the easy out and the double-play left the Predators shocked and confused while Marley, Jellison and her teammates celebrated the victory.
“Winning in front of all your family, friends and the community is something really special,” Marley said.
“Going into (the provincial championship) we hadn’t played much ball,” coach Ervine said. “To be able to flick a switch and get back into that calibre of ball that we knew we were going to have to play that quick, I give the girls credit.
“As coaches, we’re proud of those kids. It’s fun to coach them because they’re gamers. They’re just an awesome group to have.”
After relishing their provincial championship and taking a few days off for rest, coach Ervine and the Royals will get back to practice Thursday in preparation for the U21 Western Canadian Championship in Leduc, Alta. July 24 to 28.