After a highly successful regular season, the Lacombe Matrix U14 D softball team capped off their season with some hardware.
The team attended softball provincials in Calgary in July and after facing some stiff competition, walked away with a coveted silver medal.
Head Coach Chris Dunlap said the team was really excited to win at provincials.
“They got really excited when they won the bronze medal game because they knew that they were not only getting a chance to play for the gold, but that they weren’t going home empty-handed,” he said. “A lot of them kind of relaxed more, got excited about the gold medal game and got rid of their nerves.”
The Matrix played a total six games at the provincial tournament, winning the first five games in the round robin. In the final gold medal match-up, they faced the Elnora Eagles, their toughest competition yet.
“We played Elnora in a previous tournament in Innisfail,” explained Dunlap. “We felt pretty good going into it, due to previously beating them, but they ended up seeming to be a much better team in the final.”
The final game was played down to the wire, with the Matrix and Eagles neck in neck each inning.
“It was a really close game right up to the very last inning,” said Dunlap. “Up to the second last inning we were behind by three runs and then we didn’t score any runs in the last inning.”
The Matrix played the entire tournament, up until game five with their main pitcher Destiny Gillespie at the helm. Gillespie suffered an injury during the fifth game and had to be pulled from the roster. Secondary pitcher Emma Dunlap filled in during the gold medal game.
“One of the best things about their (the Eagles’) game that we really hadn’t seen from any other team was their running game,” said Chris. “There were a lot of stolen bases and really aggressive base running. We were having trouble controlling that.
“Once the ball was in play, they were really aggressive in forcing you to throw the ball around. We hadn’t really experienced that from any other team. It worked to their benefit for sure.”
The Eagles managed to get one up on the Matrix and beat them with around 10 surplus runs, most which were scored in the final inning.
Chris said he was proud of how the team did throughout the season.
“The season went really well and we won most of our games,” he said.
In their division, the Matrix played teams from Sylvan Lake, Ponoka, Rimbey and the Red Deer Rage. Due to a lower number of players signed up to play softball at the U14 level, the Matrix U14 competitive and recreation teams were combined into one team. The group collectively decided they would compete at the D level, which allowed the more-seasoned players to see some competition along with easing the community league players into more competitive play.
“We had a lot of girls who had never really played anything competitive in their lives, so it was quite the experience for them to actually see some success, get excited about the game and stay focused about it.”
This was Chris’ first season coaching. He hopes to return to coach one of the Matrix U14 teams next year.