Unity ball players earn trio of provincial titles

Unity minor ball has a long history of success on the ball field. The July 4 weekend was capped off with three provincial banners won across the province.

The Squirt Panthers travelled to Regina June 27 to take part in a 15-team Provincial "B" championship weekend. The Panthers went through the round robin undefeated. However, Mother Nature put a big damper on playoff Sunday forcing organizers to call off play until the rain stopped. This, unfortunately, did not happen in time for the event to carry into the next day and players were forced to return home and make a second trip to Regina July 6. The weather still proved challenging July 6, delaying both semifinal and final games. However, it was apparent nothing was going to stop this team and they cruised through to a gold medal win.

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The Peewee Panthers hosted provincials in Unity, which meant the non-playing team needed to pitch in to organize and run the event including the booth, gate, score keeping and grounds work.

"We had a great sponsorship from a number of businesses in and around the community," stated Peewee Panthers coach Scott Gilbert. "The Lions looked after the gate for us, which is a highly valuable service, with parents already busy looking after numerous other duties."

He said the groundskeepers were phenomenal in dealing with rain both Saturday and Sunday. "This team of girls picked the best weekend they could to play their best ball of the year and they were a treat to coach. Their hard work all season long came together as a tight knit team who showcased their best in batting, defence and base running. Our pitchers were great all weekend."

The Peewee Panthers were strong right off the top and stayed undefeated through the round robin, with Prince Albert being their toughest game of the weekend. After defeating Saskatoon in the semifinal, they once again met Prince Albert Aces in the final. The Panthers' bats were alive and the defence was strong, ending the game in six innings with no chance of comeback for the Aces.

The UK Royals junior women's team, combined of an equal number of players from both Unity and the area as well as from Kindersley, were a powerhouse team all year, earning silver in Calgary and Leduc tournaments. Rain forced cancellation of all of their other events.

They had strong line up of superb pitching, nearly flawless defence that took away any bunt opportunities from their opposition, sharp batting skills, excellent base runners and a catcher who led the team both on and off the field. The Royals had six veteran players who mentored the five rookies throughout the season.

Having defeated Moosimin Predators on home turf last year in an exciting provincial final, the Royals entered the lion's den as they travelled to host town Moosomin for this year's provincial final. It was evident from the first inning of the first game the Royals were not going to settle for anything less than playoff Sunday.

After cruising through the round robin undefeated, the Royals earned first place in their pool, setting a matchup against the hometown Predators. It was a 0-0 ball game into the fourth inning when clever coaching, smart base runners, pitching that didn't give the hitting opportunities to the opposition and timely hits got the Royals on the board and they didn't look back.

However, things got a little close for comfort in the seventh inning when the Predators mounted a comeback. The Royals were not to be denied and finished the game with a win, putting them straight through to the final Sunday. Moosomin still advanced to the final game, with the sting of last year's final loss keeping them focused and sharp.

In the final, the score remained 0-0 into the third inning. A gusty wind optimized a couple of timely hits and the Predators scored first, leading the Royals 2-0 for the remainder of the game. A Royals' pitching change in the fourth helped render the Predators' batters ineffective as did a tightened Royals defence.

The Royals had the last bat to make their weekend all worthwhile. First batter, Kennedy Harris, came through with a hit that landed her on first. Kory Herner drew a walk from the newly-changed Moosomin pitcher. Facing immense pressure on the mound, the Predators' pitcher hit the next batter loading the bases. One out was earned by the Predators on a good catch, but the Royals still had the bases loaded. An apparent game-ending double play sent the Predators to the mound in celebratory excitement. However, the umpires quickly adjudicated the call, stating interference stopped the play.

It was evident this deflated the Predators as things unravelled when another timely hit scored a run, followed by another run that tied the game and kept the bases loaded. Standing firm and tall, Ally Cey waited for her pitch and drew a walk, forcing in the championship-winning run. The team now heads off as Team Sask No. 1 to Western Canadian Junior Fastball Championships in Winnipeg, Man. Aug. 7-11.

The Unity Midgets competed in Midget "B" Provincial competition held in Saskatoon over the July 4 weekend. After an opening game loss, they won the remainder of their round robin games, ending up in a three-way tie for first place in their pool. They rose to the challenge handily defeating the North East Blazers to play the Battlefords Midgets Sunday morning. The bats rang out loud and clear and the Unity Midgets won this game, sending them to the next round of playoffs against the Saskatoon Selects. Unity dealt with a key player's illness Friday, injuries that slowed some players and one injury that took a role player out for the remainder of the weekend. This bad luck all culminated into a loss in the game that would have taken the team to Western Canadian championship, and advanced them into the provincial finals.

The lone remaining softball team to compete at their provincial championship is the Unity Bantam Panthers, who head to Moose Jaw the weekend of July 18.

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