Although it wasn’t the national gold medal they were looking for, Alberta’s provincial senior women’s baseball team are holding their heads high after winning a bronze medal at the Baseball Canada Senior Women’s Invitational Championship in Red Deer last weekend.
“It’s always nice to win the last one. Again, not the one that we were aiming for but it is what it is,” said Team Alberta Head Coach Steven Inch after his team’s 8-5 victory over Quebec in Sunday afternoon’s bronze medal game at Great Chief Park.
It was a solid week of baseball for the Albertans, who put up a 4-2-0 overall record throughout the five team tournament, which featured provincial teams from Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. as well as a team of U18 prospects from all over the country.
The Alberta team got off to a great start to the four day tournament on Thursday morning with a 10-9 victory over the prospect team after putting up five runs in the seventh and final inning to come from behind and win it. Red Deer’s Kelsey and Hayley Lalor combined for three hits and two RBIs on the way to the victory.
The momentum from that opening game seemed to carry over into their second game of the day against Ontario, as they triumphed 8-2 over their eastern Canada rivals thanks in part to the hot bat of designated hitter Paige Hildebrandt, who posted three hits and three RBIs. Meanwhile Kelsey’s incredible weekend at the plate and in the field continued as she put up a hit and three walks to help her team to victory.
Alberta’s winning streak on home field was not to last though. Friday spelled their first matchup with a British Columbia team that was hands down the best in the tournament when it came to sheer talent and skill.
Despite the fact that Alberta had been playing some great baseball, they weren’t able to stand up to the Pacific juggernaut and were shut out 7-0 at the hands of the eventual champions.
The setback against B.C. wasn’t enough to dampen the Albertan’s spirits though, as they quickly bounced back to pick up a close 10-9 victory over Quebec, clinching them a spot in the semi finals.
Inch said his team’s veteran presence helped them stay focused on their ultimate goal despite some setbacks at the tournament.
“Those women that have been (to worlds) really did a good job of being leaders on our team. They’ve been to international tournaments, they’ve been to tournaments like this a lot and they did exactly what they were supposed to do – lead the team in those areas and pick up younger players and they did a good job of doing that,” he said.
Unfortunately, the semis was where Alberta’s quest for gold would come to an abrupt halt. Despite a strong start and some solid defense throughout the opening innings of the contest, a few late errors and a sixth and seventh inning surge by the Ontarians lead to a 6-2 loss.
There were however a few bright spots for Alberta in the matchup, as Kelsey lead the charge on the base paths with a trio of stolen bases.
She continued her solid play into the bronze medal match against Quebec on Sunday afternoon, knocking in a one out triple in the sixth inning, and was eventually scored by double by left fielder Melissa Armstrong.
The run helped solidify the 8-5 win for Alberta, who held out despite a late surge by a hungry Quebec team. In the end though it all came down to pitcher Heidi Northcott, who, with two out and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, sat down the final batter with a strike out looking, ending the game.
The 18-year-old Red Deerian short stop’s excellent play throughout the week earned her a selection to Team Canada for the WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup in Gijang City, Korea next week.
Infielder Nicole Luchanski and veteran pitcher Northcott were the other two Albertans to be named to the national team roster at the conclusion of the tournament.
“One thing that I thought we did a good job of was we played for Team Alberta first and foremost. We didn’t let that (Canada roster selection) stuff play into our minds,” Inch said of the selections, adding that Alberta has a lot of young talent that could potentially make the national roster in future seasons.
“There’s a lot of ladies that, especially if they’re not going to make it this year, they’re definitely going to be in contention the next couple of years.”
Meanwhile, in the gold medal game B.C. downed Ontario 9-8 to clinch the gold medal.