The Manitoba Thunder U12 squirt fast-pitch team wasn’t rolling like it usually was in the provincial final.
The Thunder fell behind the Smitty’s Terminators 5-0 after just a half-inning during the final in Île-des-Chênes in July. However, the Thunder, who were dominant for much of the season, found a way to hold the Terminators, rally, and eventually win the title 6-5 with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the fifth.
"We had been in that situation before, and on several occasions, we were able to battle back," said head coach Tony Rogerson. "They’re a unique group in that nobody panicked, they didn’t get down on themselves. They realized they had dug themselves a hole and they had to come back even harder."
Rogerson’s 11-year-old daughter, Mia, was on-deck when the winning run crossed home plate, and so she had a prime view of the celebrations.
"When I saw the girl run in, I just dropped my bat and we all went crazy," she said.
The Thunder, who had eight of their 11 players call northeast Winnipeg home, always make sure to start the year with a challenge. The team attended a tournament in Ankeny, Iowa in April. Because winter wouldn’t release its grasp on Manitoba, the tournament was the Thunder’s first time on a diamond all year. Despite playing against teams that had been on the field for six weeks already, the team found a win to give them some early-season traction.
"When we went down, there was still a foot of snow on the ground here," said Rogerson, a Transcona resident. "It was a good opportunity for us to be out."
Rogerson said the team blazed forth from there, winning the Smitty’s Early Bird Tournament and a tournament in Saskatoon in undefeated fashion. Shortly after the Saskatchewan victory, Rogerson admitted there was a little bit of a funk for approximately two weeks, but the squad rebounded, and saved its best ball for provincials.
"I don’t know if we got a little high on ourselves because we had a lot of success early," he said. "We weren’t playing very well. We were still winning some games, but we weren’t playing as well as we had earlier in the year."
Rogerson said the team was able to recapture the work ethic it enjoyed early on in the season in advance of provincials — another tournament in which the Thunder dodged defeat.
Pitcher Tesia Hrom of Narol said the team didn’t lose hope, even when facing the deficit in the game.
"We all thought we can still win it. We just focused on getting runs and playing right," said Hrom, 11.