Team New Era of Rankin Inlet showed Nunavut can be quite competitive on the national stage with a strong showing at the annual SPN National Slo-Pitch Championship at St. John’s, N.L., from Aug. 2-6.
Playing in the co-ed division, the Rankin squad went 2-2 in round-robin play before being eliminated 18-16 by Newfoundland’s Yes B’y team in playoff action.
New Era took the championship banner in two national qualifier events this past slo-pitch season, claiming both the Calm Air Cup in Rankin and the first annual Hudson’s Bay Classic in Churchill, Man.
The national tournament in St. John’s featured action in men’s, women’s and co-ed divisions.
Connor Faulkner of Rankin Inlet – who is entering his third year of environmental studies at the University of Manitoba – said he was thrilled when he and fellow teammate Sidney Nichol were asked to join New Era for the national championship.
He said the Rankin squad was in every game and could have made a lot more noise at the event with a bounce here and there going their way.
“I found the level of ball in Newfoundland to be almost exactly the same as what we have in Rankin,” said Faulkner.
“It really was just a matter of producing runs when you had the chance and limiting your errors.
“Every game was a case of which team played the best defense, while cashing-in on their offensive opportunities.
“I would expect whatever Nunavut team competes at the next national tournament to be in the running for the championship.”
The co-ed division (10 players on the field with a minimum of four females) was split into two pools, which each team playing four games during the round-robin segment of the event.
The tournament was set-up as a double elimination, so any team taking a loss in the round robin would have to go through the entire playoff round undefeated in order to claim the championship.
Faulkner said he found the format to be fair and exciting.
He said it was also a lot of fun to socialize with players from the other teams at the event, and to take part in a number of Newfoundland traditions.
“Playing ball was the biggest part of the trip because that’s what we were there for, for sure, but exploring St. John’s during our down time was simply amazing.
“The people were great and the hospitality was just awesome.
“Everyone mingled on the ball field and made a lot of new friends.
“We got really close with the team from the Halifax/Dartmouth area of Nova Scotia called the Bombers.”
Faulkner said this was his first trip to “the rock” and it exceeded all his expectations.
He said he loved the experience and he’d definitely go back if given the opportunity.
“For us, we had the odd breakdown where teams would max-out their six runs in an inning, and those few little errors here and there really cost us in the long run.
“One thing we noticed there was that having a girl who can pitch makes a huge difference in the way you can set-up in the field.
“We only played one team that used a male pitcher the whole tournament, and we saw that having a female pitcher allows you to have four guys in the outfield which can make your defense look pretty darn good.
“Our offense was good the entire tournament – including our female players – and Germaine Tatty hit an absolute rocket over the left fielder’s head in our playoff game that made him look pretty silly.”