Over the past two decades women’s fast pitch softball teams from Manitoba have had great success at the national senior level.
Since 1995, Smitty’s teams have won nine Softball Canada championships and Winnipeg Lightning won at home at the John Blumberg Softball Complex in 1998.
No other organization has come close to matching Smitty’s in the 50-year history of the competition. Vancouver Alpha Sports and the White Rock Renegades have each taken four titles back to B.C. but Smitty’s will have the opportunity to add its total when the organization hosts the national championship at Blumberg, Aug. 6-10.
Last summer, Smitty’s lost in the final to Les Rebelles from Quebec, who will be back to defend their title.
Smitty’s will be led by pitcher Ashley Lanz, third baseman Kayla Price and outfielder Amanda Ryan, who were with the team when it won its last championship in 2008. Along with teams from Alberta and Ontario, the Smitty’s junior team and Seine River Selects will compete for the title.
It will be the Selects’ first appearance at the nationals. The juniors will be without star pitcher Brooke Seneshen, who is with Canada’s national team, preparing for the World Championship in the Netherlands, Aug. 15-24.
When the opening ceremonies are held at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, the host organization will honour the CUAC Blues that won the first Canadian senior women’s championship in 1965.
No other Manitoba team had won the title until Smitty’s did it in 1995. CUAC had been the dominant women’s team in Manitoba, winning every provincial championship since 1957 and two Western Canada titles. In 1965, the Canadian was held at Winnipeg Stadium with Blues beating Victoria Vicettes 8-4 in the final. Victoria scored four runs in the first inning off starter Darlene Kellsey before Frankie Little came in to retire the side. The experienced Blues battled back in the third. A walk to catcher Rita Woodlands, Little’s sacrifice, another walk to Grace Bouchard, a wild pitch and singles by Judy Cochrane and Bev Sawchuk tied the game. CUAC scored four more in the fifth on a hit and three Victoria errors. Little was superb in allowing just two hits in six and one third innings of relief. Dot Rose, who pitched Blues to an 11-4 victory over Victoria earlier on the final day, was the tournament’s top hitter.
Evelyne Holenski of Smitty’s said she expects a half dozen or more CUAC players will participate in the opening ceremonies and the official first pitch. Fans might see Bouchard behind the bat with Rose on the mound and the regular infield of Joyce Tully at first, Laurie Bradawaski and Joan Ingram at second and short, and Judy Cochrane at third with Alda Tait in centre field.
The Western Canada junior B women’s fast pitch championship will be played at Blumberg Aug. 7-10. Manitoba is represented by Southern Bandits based out of Manitou with players from Altona, Clearwater, Holland, Somerset and Neepawa.
Catching for the Bandits will be Brandie Clayton, the niece of Juanita Clayton, who caught for Smitty’s and played for Canada in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Brandie’s father, Wilf, is the coach.
Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org