Heat puts up a fight

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Brent Babiuk of the Hay River Pirates puts the ball in play during the Territorial Senior Men’s Fastpitch Championships, held in Hay River from July 21 to 23.

Hay River hosted the annual Territorial Senior Men’s Fastpitch Championships over the weekend.

And when all the dust had settled from running the bases, the Yellowknife Blue Jays emerged the champions.

They beat the Yellowknife Trappers in the final game on July 23 by a score of 10-8.

Organizer Glenn Smith was pleased with the tournament.

“It went really well,” he said. “It was good having five teams.”

Two teams represented Hay River and three came from Yellowknife.

The Hay River Heat finished the championships with four wins and one loss.

Smith said, after winning all their games in the round robin, the Heat were probably favoured to win the tournament at that point.

“In our first playoff game in the single-elimination final, we gave up a lot of runs in the first inning and really fell apart there and were not able to beat the Blue Jays,” he said.

The Hay River Pirates finished with a record of one win and three losses in round-robin play.

“That’s good for them in their first territorial experience,” said Smith.

It was the first time in many years that Hay River entered two teams.

“I think about 10 years ago we did manage to put a couple of teams in for a smaller territorials that was held here,” said Smith, who is also captain of the Hay River Heat.

Hay River could enter two teams into the championships because a new two-team league with close to 30 players has been operating in the community this summer.

Smith explained that created fastball players with a little more strength and experience than the last time the community entered two teams into the championships.

“Having that league has allowed some new players to come out and play first-timers that haven’t played before or haven’t played in a long time in some cases,” he said. “They got an opportunity to play and develop their skills, get more comfortable with the game. And now we’re seeing the effects of that with having two teams travel to a tournament in Yellowknife and now the territorial championships.”

The two teams in the league are called the Ptarmigan Pirates and Diggerz Dodgers.

“A lot of the players that were on the Pirates team during the regular season are on the Pirates (for the championships) and a lot of the Dodgers players are on the Heat team,” said Smith, who is captain of the Diggerz Dodgers and also president of Hay River Men’s Fastpitch.

The defending champions from 2016 were the Yellowknife Trappers, while the Heat won in 2015.

Smith admitted that having two teams from Hay River in the tournament slightly lessened the chances of the community winning.

“I think a little bit,” he said. “We’ve taken some of the more experienced players and put them on the Heat and there are some players that certainly the team would be strengthened by having from the Pirates, but the Pirates are a younger team. They have a different skill set, I think.”

The winning team in the territorial championships gets the opportunity, if it wishes, to go to next year’s Western Canadian championships.

The date and place for that tournament has not yet been set.