INNISFAIL – The long tough road through COVID ended with triumph for the Innisfail Hawks U14 C softball team.
The team of 12 young ladies won the bronze medal at the 2021 U14 C provincial championships at Stettler, a tournament that ran from July 23 to 25.
Ray Bergeron, the local team’s head coach, said the bronze medal victory came from many of the same girls who were on his U12 team in 2019.
“Of course, with COVID we didn’t play last year. By moving up to U14 this was our first year at that level and I am quite impressed on how they came together and how they managed to improve week after week,” said Bergeron.
He said because of the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic league play this year was far different this season, with the U14 C team playing several exhibition games against teams from other Central Alberta towns.
Bergeron said the Innisfail Hawks team did manage to get in 10 to 12 games, as well as practicing once or twice a week before heading off to the provincial championship in Stettler.
“They started the season and got shut down because of COVID and then started up again. It was not your normal typical season because you were not sure at first how many games you would be able to play,” said Bergeron. “We started playing games with rules, such as masks in the dugouts, fans were limited and parents were dropping kids off, and eventually it progressed where some of those rules were put aside and we got to be a bit more regular in our routine.
“It was a difficult season I am sure for all ball associations out there, and to see them put it all together, especially in that bronze medal game; allowing them to get three runs in the first inning and basically just shutting them down after that.”
The local girl Hawks played four games in the six-team round robin play at the Stettler tournament. They finished in third place with a record of two wins and two losses.
Innisfail lost the semifinal game against Sedgewick Steelers by a score of 15 to 8. Sedgewick went on to the finals and claimed silver after losing the gold medal game to the Camrose Crossfire.
Bergeron’s squad played the host Stettler Storm for the bronze medal. The Innisfail girls won 12 – 4 in five innings.
The Innisfail Hawks girls softball team had ended the most challenging season imaginable on a triumphant note. Bergeron noted many of them will be back next year.
“We should have pretty much everybody returning,” said Bergeron. “I am super proud of these girls on how much they grew as a team and how much each one of them grew as individuals, and bringing it all together at provincials at the right time was absolutely fantastic.”