The Rankin Inlet Stealers defended their title on home turf at this year’s U-16 softball tournament, which wrapped up on July 26.
The final was a rematch of last year’s championship game against Baker Lake. Although the visitors finished the round-robin tournament undefeated this year – including a 12-8 win against the Stealers – they were not able to match Rankin Inlet’s offensive prowess when they faced the team for the second time, taking a 17-2 loss.
“The Stealers were ready to play Baker, because they’re a strong team,” said coach Robert Kabvitok.
In addition to Baker Lake, the tournament saw teams from Arviat and Whale Cove competing. Coral Harbour was also supposed to play, but they were unable to fly due to bad weather.
“The weather wasn’t the greatest but what can you do when you’re on Hudson Bay,” Kabvitok said.
After cleaning up in round-robin play, Baker Lake eliminated Rankin Inlet’s other entry in the semis.
In the other semifinal, the Stealers beat Arviat 15-1.
Arviat ended up bringing home the bronze medal from the consolation final.
Although they won by a large margin in their semi, Kabvitok and fellow coach Holly Mercer gave their players a pep talk to maintain their focus.
“As a coach, you need to remind them that not every game is easy. You have to rebuild yourself,” said Kabvitok. “Before the finals we told the kids to support each other, play hard and communicate and to have fun.
That’s the most important thing is to have fun.”
Right off the bat, the Stealers put up six runs in the first inning. When the Baker Lake squad got their first at bat, the Stealers’ defence was able to keep them off the scoreboard. In the second inning, the Stealers added two more runs. Although Baker Lake eventually got on the board, Rankin Inlet piled on the runs until the game was called off in the fifth inning due to the mercy rule.
“Our defence all around was ready. They only had two runs the whole game,” said Kabvitok. “The pitching and the defence worked so well together.”
Since they were unable to make it for last month’s tournament, Kabvitok said Rankin Inlet would host Coral Harbour for a mini-tournament against the two local U-16 teams.
He added that the growing popularity of softball and fastball among Kivalliqmiut has raised the standard of the game in the past few years.
“It’s going to pick up if they keep playing in each community,” he said.