Despite only getting together once a year, the Red Nation Jets managed to win yet another national championship.
The Jets, comprised of 11 players from six different provinces, captured the women’s division at the Canadian Native Fastball Championships.
The national tournament, which wrapped up on Aug. 5, was staged in Cranbrook, British Columbia. A total of 65 squads competed in the event, which featured four divisions. The women’s category attracted 19 clubs.
The Jets, who also won the national title in 2010 and were runners-up last year, had players from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
This actually marked the third national crown for the Jets. They won their first one 10 years ago.
“We just play in the one tournament every year,” said Tony Alexis, who shares the squad’s managing duties with his wife Stephanie. “We recruit them (to play on this team). But a lot of them are friends.”
Alexis said team members, who tend to stay in shape by playing for other teams in their provinces, also keep in touch throughout the year via a Facebook group.
And once they all arrive at the nationals they might have time to squeeze a practice in before starting their games.
“When we get to the event we have team dinners and we stay together and we do everything together,” Alexis said. “The chemistry has to be good. And our chemistry is tight.”
The Jets managed to win their first three games at this year’s tournament. But the squad was then edged 2-1 in its next outing by the 2011 tournament champions from Saskatchewan, a club simply called Pride this season after losing its title sponsor.
“We actually left 16 on base in that game,” Alexis said. “We just couldn’t bring them home.”
After beating a British Columbia-based squad in their next game, the Jets were one of the only two teams still alive in the women’s category. The Pride was also still alive.
But since the Pride were still undefeated at that point, the Jets needed two straight victories to capture the national crown. And they managed to do just that.
For starters, the Jets downed the Pride 5-2. Then they registered a 4-2 victory to claim the Canadian championship.
In the deciding match the Jets, who were trailing 2-0 at the time, scored all four of their runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Then, after retiring the Pride with three straight outs in the top of the seventh and final inning, the Jets were able to start celebrating their national title.
The Jets were led this year by pitcher Holly Denny, a Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia’s Waycobah First Nation, who was selected as the tournament’s most valuable player.
This past year Denny travelled to Australia where she played for a pair of women’s teams and also conducted pitching clinics. She’ll head to New Zealand in September for a similar deal.
The Jets also had four other players singled out for their performances during the tournament. Right fielder Tara Lacquette, short stop Dakota Pratt,
left fielder Bianca Bertolin and centre fielder Shannon Alexis-Thomas were all named to the tournament all-star team.
Meanwhile, the two host teams both successfully defended their national crowns.
The Invermere A’s repeated as Canadian champs by winning the men’s division, which featured 29 teams. And the B.C. Arrows won their second straight national title in the men’s masters category. The masters division, which had 12 participating clubs, featured players 40 and over.
As for the women’s masters division, it had five entrants and was won by a team from Westbank, British Columbia.