There are dramatic comebacks – and then there is what the Township Tigers pulled off.
The host team was down to their last out in two must-win games before staging a pair of improbable comebacks en route to winning the 2019 Eastern Canadian women’s intermediate softball championship in O’Leary late Sunday afternoon.
“It’s awesome,” said the Tigers’ Ally Hustler. The Miminegash native was named the top pitcher and most valuable player of the four-team tournament, which took place at Ellis Field.
“It feels pretty good,” added Hustler.
The Tigers’ amazing run on Sunday began in the final round-robin game against Quebec’s Lac St-Louis Lions. Both teams entered 3-2 (won-lost) in the double round-robin format. The scenario was simple – the winner went to the final, featuring the top two teams, while the losing team was eliminated.
The game required an extra inning and Quebec scored twice in the top of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead. The Tigers responded by rallying for three runs with two outs in the bottom half of the inning for a 6-5 win. Vanessa Rennie raced home from third base to score the winning run on a passed ball.
That set the stage for the final against the Dartmouth She Devils, who also completed round-robin play 4-2 after a 5-4 win over the Dartmouth Thunder (1-5) Sunday morning.
A four-run rally in the sixth inning gave the She Devils an 8-5 lead, but the Tigers were not deterred.
“Everyone was up and ready to go,” said Tigers catcher Sarah Woodside of Knutsford. “They were confident and we got our hits when we needed.”
Rennie led off the top of the top of the seventh inning with a single, but the next two Tigers were retired. Marley Gaudet singled on a full count to keep the Tigers alive and Drew Hackett’s base hit plated Rennie.
Brooke Bernard’s single brought Hackett home and Abby Hustler was intentionally walked. That set the stage for Ally Hustler, who hit a two-run double down the third-base line to give the Tigers a 9-8 lead. Ally, who returned to the mound in the sixth inning after starting the final, would record the final three outs to clinch the victory and earn the pitching win.
“I was very tired,” said Ally, describing how she felt earlier in the game. “I got pulled and put at shortstop because I didn’t think I could pitch anymore.
“I had a little break at shortstop and had one ball hit to me and then I was ready to go again.”
Ally said she was pleased with her velocity when she returned to the mound.
“I didn’t want to give up any more runs, so I was pitching as hard as I could,” said Ally, who added Woodside was a big part of her success.
“My change-up was working this weekend and I had an awesome catcher behind the plate,” she continued. “She was calling the right pitches at the right time.”
Woodside, who was catching Ally for the first time, said the plan was to use all of the pitches available.
“It’s is always nice to switch it up because the batters will get off their game if you throw a couple (of off-speed pitches) in,” said Woodside.
Tigers coach April Hustler said “it’s great” to win the championship on home soil.
“We are very young,” she said. “We have mainly U19 base with four Canada Games girls. It’s going to be a bright future for a lot of these girls. We are going to be around for a while.”
The head coach noted offence was a big key for the Tigers’ success.
“The bats were just on fire,” she added. “That is why we are here.”
E. Canadian women’s intermediate softball championship scores:
Township Tigers 6 Lac St-Louis Lions 5 (8 innings)
Dartmouth She Devils 5 Dartmouth Thunder 4
Township Tigers 9 Dartmouth She Devils 8
Township Tigers 15 Dartmouth Thunder 12
Lac St-Louis Lions 3 Township Tigers 2
Dartmouth She Devils 12 Dartmouth Thunder 2
Lac St-Louis Lions 10 Dartmouth Thunder 0
Dartmouth She Devils 9 Township Tigers 8
Dartmouth Thunder 3 Lac St-Louis Lions 2
Township Tigers 5 Dartmouth She Devils 2
Lac St-Louis Lions 6 Dartmouth She Devils 0
Township Tigers 14 Dartmouth Thunder 7
Dartmouth She Devils 9 Lac St-Louis Lions 2
(After Round-Robin Play)
Township Tigers 4 2
Dartmouth She Devils 4 2
Lac St-Louis Lions 3 3
Dartmouth Thunder 1 5