The Prince Albert U16 Aces are heading to nationals after a top three finish at the provincials, which were held from July 19-21 at Prime Ministers Park.
The Aces clinched a spot by finishing first in their pool with a 3-0 round robin record. Although the Aces dropped both of their playoff games on Sunday, coach Devon Kolosa said he’s pleased with what he saw from the team.
“All these games were good for us,” he said. “They were really, really good for us, so we’re going to set our sights on nationals and head out there and have a really good tournament.”
The Aces will bring a mix of players to nationals, with some veterans making their fourth appearance at that level. For others, it will be their first trip. Kolosa said they’re going to rely on those experienced players to lead the way when the tournament kicks off in Calgary on August 14.
“Hopefully some of our older players, who’ve been there quite a few times, can help our players who haven’t, and get them built up and let them no what to expect,” he explained.
Aces drop heartbreaker in final playoff contest
The Aces’ first round playoff matchup with the Saskatoon Phantoms proved to be a nail biter. Both teams entered the contest with perfect records, and they put on a strong display of pitching and defence for fans in attendance.
It was the Phantoms who were able to break the deadlock first, pushing a single run across the plate for a 1-0 victory.
“We scored a whole bunch of runs the first two games and then we came up against a very good team in a 1-0 game, which was good,” Kolosa said. “Our bats just dropped off a bit, and the same thing in our semi-final game, but our pitching and our defence were amazing this weekend.”
Despite the loss, Prince Albert had one last chance to reach the provincial final. They needed a win over the tournament’s only other undefeated team, the Regina Royals, who beat the Regina Fighting Saints and Moose Jaw Ice to advance out of the second and third place playoff bracket.
Things started off well for the Aces, who jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Kiana Mulner singled and later scored in the top of the second. The Aces extended their lead to 2-0 with after Carnall Olsen drew a walk to open the third inning, and scored on Mulner’s sacrifice fly.
However, the offence dried up for Prince Albert, while the Royals responded with three runs in the bottom of the third to take a 3-2 lead. Regina added to their lead with another three runs in the bottom of the fifth on route to a 6-2 win.
“Our bats just kind of died off the past few games,” Kolosa said. “It happens some times, but these girls are all great players and it just was one of those weekends, but I’m very, very proud of the girls. Our defence and pitching and everything else was good, and in our first two games, don’t get me wrong, we hit very, very well.”
Aces take top spot in pool after win in wild extra-inning thriller
The Prince Albert Aces cruised through their first two games of the Saskatchewan Softball U16 Provincial Championships, winning by scores of 14-1 and 14-2.
However, things tightened up in their final round-robin game, where they needed a two-out RBI double from catcher Carnell Olsen for a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Saskatoon Raiders. The win was enough to clinch first place in Pool Green, and secure a spot at Nationals in August.
Kolosa said the extra-inning nail biter was just what the team needed after opening the tournament with two blowout wins.
“We were down and we had to go into extra innings, so it was good to see them (respond),” Kolosa said. “After you have a couple of big games and you’re up by 13 runs, they’re not learning a lot from that. You have to learn to come back in a game and stay competitive right to the very end.”
The Aces entered the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, but the Raiders tied things up on a two-out RBI single from LF Georgia Heilman. Prince Albert nearly responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning, but Olson was called out in a close call at home plate.
The Raiders looked like they were going to complete the comeback when they scored two runs in the top of the eighth to take a 4-2 lead. However, the Aces rallied to tie the game with two RBI groundouts, setting the stage for Olsen’s heroics.
Organizers have hands full after wet weekend
Mother Nature did few favours for tournament organizers in Prince Albert. Heavy rains lashed Prime Ministers Park with nearly 16 mm of precipitation the day before the tournament was scheduled to start. Another 5 mm of rain followed on Saturday morning.
Kolosa said the parents, grounds crews and organizers worked overtime to make sure the teams could play.
“We were out tarping diamonds the night before. We did what we could on Friday in between the rain to dump a whole bunch of stuff on the turf to get it playable,” he explained. “So we got all the games back on track by Friday, so Saturday and Sunday turned out really, really good, so I’d just like to thank the parents and volunteers who stepped up to help make the event a success.”