On a chilly Sunday afternoon in Kelowna, UBCO’s softball team, in just its third season, were crowned national champions.
At High Noon Park, just behind Kelowna’s airport, the host Heat defeated the St. Clair Saints of Windsor, Ont., 5-4 in the gold-medal game of the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association (CCSA) Championship tournament.
The game went into extra innings, with Nevada Johnson driving in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The game was tied 3-3 after seven regulation innings.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled for this university, the UBCO Heat softball program and this outstanding group of young women,” said head coach Joni Frei following the victory.
“Winning a national championship is an incredible experience, but winning a national championship in front of your home crowd, on your home turf in just your second official season, is something these girls will be proud of and remember for the rest of their lives.”
Overall, UBCO posted a record of 23-2-1 during the fall season, including a 6-0 mark at the national tournament. Further, this was just the team’s third season.
During round-robin play at the nationals, UBCO defeated the University of Regina 15-0, the University of Calgary 10-3, the University of Ottawa 12-0, St. Clair 9-2 and Humber College of Toronto 4-3.
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The Heat, having outscored their opponents 50-8, finished first overall, and advanced to the final, where they would play St. Clair (3-2), which finished second.
The Saints opened the scoring, but the Heat charged ahead in the bottom of the third with three runs. However, St. Clair charged back with a two-run home run by Shae-Lyn Murphy to level it at 3-3.
In extra innings, each team scored once in the eighth to make it 4-4 and to force a ninth inning — but only after a routine fly to left field was dropped by St. Clair, allowing UBCO to tie the game.
The dropped catch also came with the Heat having two out, with UBCO’s first two batters of the inning having popped out.
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In the ninth, St. Clair was held scoreless, with UBCO then loading the bases in the bottom half. Johnson lined up the middle to plate the winning run.
Gabriela Isaak led the way for UBCO with three hits. The Saints also made three errors.
Five UBCO players were also named to the all-star team: Johnson, catcher Cassidy Kellow, second baseman Janessa Hanson plus outfielders Taylor Roeseler and Kasey Wright.
The University of Calgary finished third, defeating Humber 11-4 in the bronze-medal game.
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UBCO’s softball team started in 2019, but the 2020 season was cancelled.
According to UBCO, the Heat follows the university’s competitive sport-club model and is predominantly self-funded and community supported.
“This is the most selfless team I have ever been a part of,” Frei said of her team. “Our juniors and seniors lead the way and our sophomores and freshmen followed closely behind.
“They bought into a ‘championship team-first’ mindset early and never looked back.”
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