After a long hiatus as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic (and an even longer Winnipeg winter), the men’s and women’s Slo- Pitch teams started their preparations for the 2022 Canada West Regionals, held at CFB Wainwright, AB during the first week of May. Practices started months before while there was still snow on the ground, but the eager softball players were undeterred as they ran drills indoors at Building 21. The head coaches, WO Jamie Anderson for the men and Cpl Shane Parrington for the women, had a big challenge ahead of them as many CAF members from across Winnipeg would be resuming sports after a two year break. The skill levels of the players were as diverse as the units they represented, ranging from first-timers such as Cpl Chanveer (Chico) Jhajj from the Fort Garry Horse Regiment and Sgt Amanda Stewart at the Winnipeg Transition Centre, to slo-pitch veterans like Capt Colin Brewster from RCAF Barker College and Cpl Dillon Loewen with 1 CAD. Soon enough, the snow melted and the grass turned green, meaning the Canoes (men’s) and the Spitfires (women’s) teams would head out to our sports field behind Building 90 to get some fresh air and play some ball! The Canoes and Spitfires joined forces and played a mixed game in late June to get their game senses in tune. These Wednesday afternoon practices were made possible by the dedicated efforts of the PSP Winnipeg staff who ensured that the fields were groomed and prepped and that we had the proper equipment of bats, balls and helmets to get us to Regionals.
The real journey to Regionals began with a 14- hour overnight bus ride made possible with the support of 17 MSS and TEME flight. The Spitfires would kick off the round robin tournament with a match up against the Cold Lake Wolves. Although it was the first time the women had played together as a team, they demonstrated a strong effort and a positive attitude throughout. Despite the fact Maj Melissa Marshall, a last minute pick-up from 1 RCHA in Shilo, MB and the game’s MVP for Winnipeg, had a strong showing at the plate with two deep drives to left centre. the Spitfires lost to Cold Lake 10 – 30. The frustrations continued for the men’s team as they faced a powerhouse Edmonton squad. Even though the team had several home runs and stellar defensive plays, including a diving stop and put out at second base by Capt Pat Tse, the game’s MVP for Winnipeg, the Canoes came up short in a tight game losing 20 – 26. Subsequent days of the tournament consisted of crucial big hits and highlight reel defensive plays. The women’s team took several tough losses to Edmonton and Esquimalt. They did, however, defeat Wainwright in a convincing fashion by a score of 21 – 1. The MVPs for the ladies include: S1 Jackie Dormer, S1 Katrina Houssin, and Cpl Christine Hatch. The men’s team fortunes turned as they defeated Comox, Cold Lake, and Wainwright, which resulted in them taking the first seed after tie-breakers. Their MVPs include Cpl Laene Burns, and S1 Nico Chiasson.
The last day of the tournament consisted of single elimination playoffs for both the men’s and women’s teams. The Spitfires remained high spirited and motivated, but came up short against Esquimalt 0 – 19. Esquimalt would go on to beat out Edmonton in the finals and were crowned the women’s champions for Canada West Slo- Pitch. “The ladies played together very well! We worked hard together and kept each other motivated”, Team Captain Cpl Christine Hatch said. “A lot of us didn’t have a lot of softball experience, but we never gave up. We took what we learned with the practices, especially the one with the guys and applied it the best we could. I am very proud of us and what we were able to accomplish this tournament. I look forward to competing again next year.” For the 2nd time in the tournament, S1 Jackie Dormer took player of the game for Winnipeg.
The men’s team took on Comox in the semi-finals in a game full of twists and turns, run downs, diving catches, home runs, and numerous close plays which gave them an impressive win over Comox to claim their spot in the finals. Pitcher Cpl Chico Jhajj was instrumental in shutting down the Comox team in a 21 – 17 win, and was named player of the game. Later that day, the men faced off with the Esquimalt Tritons for the Championship finals. The Tritons would take an early lead in what would become a defensive battle with Winnipeg not allowing any runs scored in the last 4 innings. Unfortunately the Canoes were unable to generate enough offense to offset the early runs from Esquimalt, stranding runners on base on numerous occasions. Esquimalt would go on to win the game 12 – 6. “We had a great tournament. We battled the entire week, and we were hitting really well outside of that last game,” said Coach WO Jamie Anderson. “I think we can hold our heads high. We just came across great pitching. I think these guys will do great next year, and even though I might not be in Winnipeg next year, I will definitely be cheering them on.”
Although neither team achieved the result they wanted from the week, the overall experience was still a positive one for all the players. “After being trapped in our house for 2 years, isolated, we came together as a team and played our hearts outs,” said MWO Aaron Bygrove. “We got outside, got active. [Both teams] worked together and supported each other. We built teamwork and camaraderie and that’s what [CAF Sports] is about!”