Victory is sweet and two Cochrane Minor Ball (CMB) girls’ teams are still savouring the taste days after coming home with gold medals this past weekend.
The Division 2A U13 Cobras and Division 2B U15 Cherry Bombs stayed in the winner’s brackets of the nearly two-week, double-knockout playoff period to come away top of the class against competitors from around the region at the Calgary Minor Softball City Championships.
It came down to Cochrane and the Airdrie Angels in the U15 game, and Cochrane and the Foothills Fury out of Okotoks in the U13 game on the final day of play July 9.
“I think the real highlight of winning our game was that it was a complete team effort,” said Alison Clayton, co-coach of the U13 team and CMB vice-president of softball. “From the defensive side of things to the big bats that got us the runs and the steals, it was a real team win and I think that was the best part of it.”
The team of 13 players won 10-5 in their third consecutive gold medal win at the Calgary tournament.
Clayton said they managed to secure a cushion at the beginning of the gold-medal game with three batters up and three batters out. Her daughter, Maeve Clayton, was pitching.
“They didn’t score any runs at all and our defense was just super ready to play,” Clayton said, adding Cochrane scored four runs for themselves in the first inning.
There was a little more field play in the second inning.
“They had three hits, but we made three infield plays,” said the coach. “It was exciting because sometimes you just don’t get a lot of plays and it comes down to pitching or walking and stealing bases, but when you do get to play, it really adds another level of excitement.”
By the middle of the last inning, they’d managed to secure enough of a lead that the game was called. The Fury would be unable to catch up in the alotted time left.
“The girls were having a lot of fun and it was a challenging game so we were kind of surprised when it ended,” said Clayton. “It was so great to see this group of girls win though. A lot of them have been playing together since they were eight years old.”
Co-coach of the team Trent Leinenweber said the players lived up to the challenge of becoming more competitive in their U13 year.
“This year they really became one in their own and we went from ‘Hey, let’s just everyone have fun all the time,’ to ‘Let’s compete,’” he said. “It wasn’t an easy transition at the start, but they did it and they’ve grown greatly from it.”
Mike Cann, who coaches the U15 Cherry Bombs, said they also had a tricky start to the year, only to turn it around and finish on a high note. Their regular-season record was four wins and 11 losses, with one tie.
“We started off pretty slow this year, but we had some steady improvement and I think we just managed to carry that momentum to have really strong playoffs,” said Cann.
In the end, Cochrane won over Airdrie with a final score of 12-9 in their third and final head-to-head match-up of the tournament.
The coach said the Cherry Bombs' success was thanks not only to the efforts of the players, but to the other coaches and parents who helped them along the way.
“We had girls that have been playing ball for four or five years and we had girls who put on a glove for the first time this year, so the improvements everyone made were amazing,” he said. “That says a lot about our coaching staff and everyone else that stepped up to the plate this year.”