The Red Deer Bellas are Slo-Pitch National Champions after defeating the Edmonton Storm in the gold medal finals at the beginning of the month.
The all-female squad traveled to Leduc from Aug. 4-6 to compete in the Slo-Pitch National (SPN) Championship Women’s E division.
Jennifer Warner, who’s been on the team since their first season seven years ago, said this was not only their first national championship but the first time they competed at the tournament.
“This is probably the best team effort and team-oriented bunch of girls that we’ve ever had,” she said.
“Even if one girl didn’t get on base there were three or four right behind that all pushed the rest of the players… Every person did whatever it took to do what was best for the team and our hearts were so into it we were unstoppable.”
They faced seven other teams mostly from Alberta but also one from Moncton in pursuit of a gold medal.
The Bellas beat teams from Drayton Valley, Moncton, Edmonton, and Leduc during round-robin play to stay undefeated. Since they finished in first place the Bellas were given two lives in the playoffs.
They won their first playoff game but lost to the Storm the following game. After beating Drayton Valley in the semi-finals they met the Storm again in the finals. In order to capture gold the Bellas had to win twice and they did that winning 16-15 and 12-10.
“In the semi-finals, we were down by four in the seventh inning and we scored 11 runs in that inning alone. Even when we were down we came back and fought so much harder,” she said.
“[When we won gold] gloves were being thrown in the air, everyone was crying, and jumping up and down. It was the most incredible feeling in the world.”
The Bellas qualified for nationals after winning an SPN tournament in May.
The rules for qualifying she said may change next year but since they won this year they’ll move up from the E division to D, which is a higher level of play.
The roster is made up of 12 players and three coaches. The players range from as young as 19 to as old as 46 years old and throughout the season they played in the Central Alberta Slo-Pitch Association.
Team manager Mindy Johnson said it was a wild ride for the team.
“They fought hard and played a lot of tough teams,” she said. “There were some very good teams that we had to beat to get to where we ended up.”
“I think they played their hearts out. They did very well and were strong defensively. We had a lot of two-out rallies that helped us out a lot… There was a pretty big celebration. I cried because I was so proud of them.”