And so tournament softball is off and running in the NWT and for this group, it’s been a while since they’ve seen game action like this.
The Keith Broadhead Twin Ballpark in Hay River played host to the U16 Hay River Jamboree featuring five teams in total: four from the Yellowknife Wolverines junior program and one from the host community. Team Lukas, coached by Jenn Lukas, ended up coming out on top in the final on Sunday afternoon by beating Team Thomas, coached by Steve Thomas, by a score of 8-5.
Lukas said the tournament ended up being a modified double-knockout tournament after the weather played havoc with the original format.
“We were going to have a round-robin tournament but Friday got rained out,” she said. “Steve is a master at putting brackets together and got one going on Friday evening.”
The jamboree was the first event of the season and the idea behind it all was to give the players a chance to learn and shake out the cobwebs, she added.
“Neither community has had a lot of time on the field as of yet,” she said. “It was a late spring so we didn’t get going until mid-May and Hay River has been on the field since (June 8). It was a chance for the kids to knock off some rust and teach them as we went along.”
One thing the Yellowknife teams encountered was some strong pitching courtesy of Hay River’s Owen Pettipas, who is quickly becoming one of the pitchers of the future in the territory.
Lukas said there were some nerves among the players when they first faced Pettipas but it began to go away as the jamboree went on.
“There are players who are intimidated the first time they face him,” she said. “They started fouling off pitches, though, and began to get comfortable with it because they were making contact. That’s a big thing for a young player – once they see they can make contact, they start to think they can catch up to it.”
On the field, Lukas said Grady Stabel was one of the offensive stars as he had some big hits, one of which was a big triple, while Kali Skauge had a great weekend on the pitching rubber.
“She was hitting a lot of her spots and her velocity was really good,” she said.
For her part, Skauge, who pitched for Team Thomas, said it was just good to be able to get back to game action, something she and her teammates haven’t had a lot of chances to do in recent months.
“It was probably the first time in about two years since we’ve gotten to play an actual game against another team,” she said. “I didn’t play on a team coached by my dad (Greg Skauge) for the first time and that was weird but it ended up good.”
She said her best game came against Hay River in the semifinal but it ended up being a weekend of bumps and bruises.
“I had a couple of line drives come back at me hard,” she said. “There’s a couple of bruises on my legs and my ribs but I was walking (Monday) and I did my English exam so that’s good.”
Both Hay River Minor Ball and Yk Minor Fastball chipped in money to help put on this first jamboree and there is a second one planned for Yellowknife next month.
Skauge said everyone should be in better game shape by then.
“We haven’t done a lot on game situations but people caught on quick in Hay River,” she said. “We’ll work on some things in the next couple of practices and we should be ready for the next one.”