The Elkford Thunder hosted the Alberta Under 16 Provincial Softball Championships from July 8 to 10. six girls’ fastball teams – two from Calgary as well as teams from Hannah, Camrose, and Airdrie competed in the tournament with the local team keeping gold at home. The Free Press spoke with the Thunder’s head coach, Blaine Borys, about the weekend.
The planning process for Provincials has been in the works for more than a year.
“It starts a year in advance. You’ve got to apply through Alberta Softball. From there you get the okay and it has probably been a year long event,” said Borys. “We’ve had three or four different meetings and a committee was set up, mostly of parents with members. Shanna Klein, Kathleen Murray, Jody Borys and Terry Vandale were four of the organizers of it. Shanna was kind of the head honcho for it.”
This was not the first time that provincials were held in Elkford but Borys noted the increased enthusiasm of the community.
“We held one back in 2003 and we had 10 teams here and I said to my daughter last night, ‘when we had 10 teams here, it wasn’t like this.’” he said. “I think what happened this year was my daughters got involved putting a ladies team together and got involved with Facebook and really got our team exposed out there, way more than back in 2003.”
Borys believes the team does not get the same opportunity that many of the other teams at the tournament do.
“Our girls don’t get the luxury of playing in Calgary or in some area where they have a league. We basically travel to tournaments and doubleheaders wherever we can find games. We really don’t get the chance to play in our backyard; that was a big thing for us,” he said. “The girls were pretty impressed, especially after Sunday’s crowd.”
The tournament started with a round robin, where each team played against one another to determine which teams played against each other for the semi-finals. The Elkford team lost one game to the Calgary Nitros, who went undefeated in the round robin. Elkford went into the semi-finals in second place where they played the third ranked team, the Camrose Crossfire.
“I think the score was 14 to seven against Camrose. They were a decent team, they gave us a close game in the round robin and we beat them in the semi-final,” said Borys.
After winning the semi-finals the Thunder played the Calgary Nitros for the second time.
“The finals were against the Nitro’s and we’ve played them about four times this year and we have been pretty evenly matched,” said Borys. “They are a really good team to play against, the coaches all get along, and he came up after the game and said, ‘Wow, we didn’t bring our A game and you guys did.’ And that was the difference.”
Borys was torn when deciding who the most valuable player (MVP) was for the Thunder.
“Our pitcher pitched well, Josie Diederich, she won MVP. We had a guy that used to help coach and he tried to pick the MVP and it was not a nice job to do. We could have had three or four girls who played unreal, our backcatcher, Audrey Roberts, our shortstop, Grace Bohn – the whole team played really well, it was tough to pick an MVP,” he said.
During the tournament, Borys was surprised with an honorary renaming of the Elks Park ball diamond to Blaine Borys Ball Diamond.
“I was quite shocked, a total surprise. Apparently they were working on it for over a year, it was quite the honour,” he said. “I’ve been a part of building pretty much every ball diamond in town. We had some funds given to us but basically all the fields have been community-built as far as the money raising goes. The Elks were involved big time a while ago as a sponsor. I almost felt embarrassed, one of the original Elk guys came up and congratulated me and, because there is no more Elks here in Elkford, I felt a little bad. They were the ones who started the funding and got it started.”
Many of the girls will be headed to the Summer Games on July 21-24.
“Ten of our girls, mostly from Elkford, are going to the summer games next weekend in Leduc. My daughter and I are coaching that team and we are looking forward to that,” he said.
Borys was impressed with the community and how Elkford rallied around the team and the tournament.
“We could thank the whole town of Elkford. Put it this way, the Credit Union donated around 65 volunteer shirts and we didn’t have enough. That gives you an idea of how many volunteers we had. I can tell you that from Alberta Softball, and all the teams that every comment was positive and many said that it was the best Provincials they’ve ever been at, and that was our goal,” he said. “The Lions Club put on a pancake breakfast. Two of our sponsors gave warm-up jackets, Bears Paw sponsored the silver medalist jacket and Clarkson Contracting sponsored the gold medal jackets, that stuff doesn’t happen at Provincials, but we went the extra mile.”