In front of a home crowd on Monday, the Elkford Thunder were crowned U19 provincial softball champions.
For several of the Elkford athletes, this served as an honourable send-off, as high school graduation marked their final year with the team.
The victory, however, was not easily won. Skilled contenders hailed from every corner of Alberta, each with the same goal in mind. The tournament started out strong on Friday morning with Elkford winning their home match against the Hanna Yellow Jackets.
Both the semi final and final started out with scores in favour of the away teams. Each game came down to a clutch finish for the Elkford youth.
During the semi-final against Hanna, the away team sat at a comfortable 6-2 lead, but after a pitching change, the girls recovered, holding Hanna at bay while they scored enough runs to recover.
“We had to end up scoring seven runs in the one inning to come back to take the lead, and that was late in the game,” said Elkford Thunder head coach Blaine Borys.
“We were behind the whole game right til’ the sixth inning, almost the last inning, we scored seven runs to finally take the lead.”
The final against the Provost Pilots started out in a similar way, but the tides changed when Elkford senior player Grace Bohn slammed two home runs with the bases loaded, which helped secured the win.
“One girl in particular had two in-the-park home runs. Somebody video taped it, they got it on Facebook and that almost brings a tear to my eye; because the bases were loaded,” said Borys. “Just an amazing kid, an amazing athlete.”
Bohn’s name was on the lips of many following the game.
“She had two home runs in a game, she’s quite the spark plug,” said Borys.
The win was surreal on Monday, but come Tuesday, it had finally sunk in for the head coach.
“I think it’s finally sunk in,” he said. “Doing it on your own field and – oh the crowd, I don’t know how many people we had there, the place was packed. Pretty exciting for those girls to pull it off in their own barn.”
For 30-year-veteran coach Borys, the tournament was bittersweet. Several of the girls that are now graduating high school he coached since they were eight years old.
As Elkford is a part of Softball Alberta, playing games throughout the season requires much travel. Borys referred to themselves as a travelling team; each year they try to be involved in three or four tournaments. That being said, he said it was great to host a tournament in front of a home crowd.
Girls softball arrived in Elkford, 25 years ago.
“We never had a girls program, and we got it going back then,” said Borys.
Back then, Borys explained, there were many other teams involved in their league; from Blairmore to Pitcher Creek and more. Despite softball dying off in these other communities over the years, the Thunder kept on rolling.
Eight teams participated in the provincial tournament; two from Calgary, one from Edmonton, Hanna, Provost, Airdrie, Red Deer and Elkford.
This is the second time in four years Elkford has been crowned provincial champions. Borys said this officially puts them on the map as not only elite athletes but also great hosts.
“We put on a provincial like no other one, I can honestly say that,” said Borys.
“We’ve got so many compliments, all the people, all of our volunteers, it was just compliment after compliment about what a great (tournament) we put on. We went the extra mile. From the sponsorship to the volunteers. Where do you get to play in the mountains like this?”