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Thunder repeat as provincial champs
The Manitoba Thunder U12A softball team proved thunder could clap twice.
Last month, the squad captured its second provincial title in a row, downing the Smitty’s Terminators 6-1 at the John Blumberg Softball Complex on July 15.
The Thunder returned only three players from last year’s championship squad, and less than half the team was made up of older-age players (aged 12) as opposed to younger-age players (aged 11).
Coach Tony Rogerson, a Transcona resident, explained the final game against Smitty’s was actually quite close until the sixth inning, where the Thunder broke open a 1-1 tie with a five-run frame before shutting down the opponents in the top of the seventh to preserve the win.
Rogerson explained the ability of the Thunder’s hurlers to keep runs off the board took some pressure off the young offence, which found ways to plate enough runs far more often than not.
"Last year was pretty much a veteran-laden team, and this year was more half-and-half," Rogerson said. "Overall, I would say everything really started with our pitching."
Rogerson acknowledged it took a little time for the team members to jell and get a sense of one another, as the Thunder dropped five of six games at its preseason tournament in Ankeny, Iowa after posting a single win in six games last year.
It was a good chance for the Thunder to work together in its first competitive action of the spring, as it was in 2013 as well. As well, like in 2013, the Thunder took gold at the Saskatoon President’s Tournament to further build up the confidence.
"That weekend was a coming together, a good time," Rogerson said.
After Iowa, the Thunder founds its ground as it went undefeated in the Manitoba Ladies Super Softball League, and didn’t drop a meaningful game until losing to Smitty’s in the last game of the provincial tournament round-robin.
The Thunder entered the final knowing the Terminators were waiting for them in the opposing dugout right there again, but Rogerson said the team was in the right calm headspace to avoid getting rattled by a rare setback.
"We talked about it going in," he said. "We had done well to that point with our game.
"It reminded us to stick with our game."
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