Nelson Mixed Slo-Pitch held its annual season ending playoffs this weekend with tremendous action throughout the four days, but on Sunday there was no game more emotional and exciting than the B-final.
The Sunday afternoon match up between the Fighting Aardvarks and the Nelson District Credit Union featured two well deserving finalists, but there was a much deeper meaning to the contest than a trophy at the end.
Both teams have been staples in the local league over its 19 years and in the off-season both teams tragically lost a key member. Both Shirley Turner (Credit Union) and Blair D’Andrea (Fighting Aardvarks) passed away this past year and both were present in spirit when the two teams took the diamond on Sunday afternoon.
With strong defence, it was the Credit Union that forged out to a 4-0 lead heading into the fifth inning of the seven-inning game. With timely hits and helped by Credit Union errors, the Aardvarks came storming back, scoring the maximum five runs in the top of the fifth to take the 5-4 lead. Credit Union scored two in the bottom half of the inning to regain the advantage.
Wearing special patches on their jerseys that said “Ninja Vark” (D’Andrea’s nickname), the Aardvarks scored two more in the bottom of the sixth only to have the Credit Union do the same and take an 8-7 lead into the final inning.
In the final inning the score was tied 8-8 when the Credit Union gave up a walk to load the bases. A single gave the Aardvarks the lead and then a three-run homer by Nate Jarvis increased the lead to 12-8.
The Aardvarks played solid defence in the bottom half of the seventh and with two outs, catcher Kathy Centrone caught a foul fly for the third out to seal the victory.
“There was a lot of great ball being played this weekend and this game was a great example of that,” said league president RJ Warren.
After opening the tournament with a loss to DeVito’s, the Credit Union made it to the B-final by defeating Our Glass and the Tin Tippers. The Aardvarks also opened the tournament with a loss to Can Filters, but recovered with wins against Cait’s Crew and the Prestige Thunder.
SURPRISES IN THE A AND C FINALS
The league’s premier A-final featured defending champion Louie’s against the upstart Competition for the big trophy.
Louie’s finished third in the regular season standings and made it to the final with victories over the Tin Tippers, Main Jet and Bogustown. The tenth-seeded Competition paved their way to the title game with victories over Prestige, Sage and Can Filters.
In what turned out to be a tight defensive battle, the Competition fought its way to a 2-1 lead after the first inning. No more runs scored until the seventh inning as both teams relied on great defence and solid pitching.
In the end, Eric Laughton’s pitching performance for the Competition was only slightly better than that of Louie’s Ken Anderson as the former led his team to the 3-1 victory.
“That should be one inning,” Warren said of the final score. “Slo-pitch is a hitter’s game, but both guys put on great pitching clinics. To have a defensive battle means there was some great catches and great defensive plays… and that is what happened.”
With a 6-9 regular season record, the Competition became the lowest seed to ever win the championship game.
“I think it was a surprise victory,” said Warren. “Would they [Competition] have been my pick at the start of the tournament? No. They would have been in my top-five because they got hot at the end of the year, but I didn’t think they would be able to knock off teams like Sage and Louie’s.
“When you make up the draw you make it so there is a chance for the first and second place teams [in the regular season] playing in that final game. Those draws never take in the fact of hot bats, good plays, cold bats and key hits.”
The C-final featured a surprise with perennial powerhouse Sage finding itself in an unfamiliar place. Sage — who has also been known as the Savoy, Heritage, Hume and Jackson’s — has only not made the A-final once in the previous 18 years of the league. A tough defeat by eventual champion Competition doused Sage’s chances this weekend.
Sage founds itself in the C-final against Cait’s Crew. Despite a thrilling final inning when Cait’s Crew had their bats come alive, Sage proved too much and won the C trophy with an 18-12 win.
Sage has won the league championship 13 times in the league’s history.
Overall Warren said the 19th Nelson Mixed Slo-Pitch season was a great success. And when you compare it last year where the terrible spring weather shortened the season and the problems at Lakeside Park caused all the playoff games to be moved to Queen Elizabeth, Warren said the scorching sun was the least of his worries.
“Thankfully so,” Warren said of the sizzling hot weekend. “We didn’t need wetsuits, we didn’t need scuba gear and we didn’t need boats.”