Hard fight for Rankin softball at national slo-pitch championship in Winnipeg

by Darrell Greer- August 15, 2017

There was no ultimate victory for softball players from Rankin Inlet who travelled to Winnipeg, Man., for the national slo-pitch championships, but the team came away feeling good.

The Juggernauts, Rankin Inlet’s co-ed softball team, played a tight run against their opponents at Slo-Pitch Nationals in Winnipeg, Man. In the back, from left, are Seamas Ayaruak, Trent Aksawnee, Qaritaq Kusugak, Colton Graham, Chad Graham, James Merritt, Sidney Nichol, Andrew Simms, Chris Ussak, Chad Taipana and Connor Faulkner. In the front, from left, are Catherine Ayaruak, Tracey Roach, Loren Kaludjak, Kandace Kusugak and Adriana Kusugak.
photo courtesy of Ian Wright

The Juggernauts joined teams from across Canada for the tournament, which ran from Aug. 4 to 7.

The Juggernauts put in two teams for the competition. Team captain Chad Graham said 11 men and five women travelled south to form the men’s and co-ed teams.

“All of the games were really close,” Graham said. “My team played awesome – everyone played well.”

The men’s team lost four round robin games on Aug. 4 and 5 as well as a men’s playoffs game on Aug. 6, leading to their elimination from the tournament.

The co-ed team came out strong, winning in the round robin against two Manitoba teams on Aug. 4 and a Saskatchewan team on Aug. 5, only losing by four points to Manitoba in their fourth game.

“We had a three-and-one record after the round robin, so we got to be in the winner’s bracket to start off the playoffs round,” Graham said.

“We ended up losing to the team that went on to the finals.”

They showed well in the playoffs, losing a close 6-9 game against Manitoba on Aug. 6 before claiming a sound win against Saskatchewan with a 15-3 win later that day.

Aug. 7 proved to be the fateful day for the team, which lost their third playoffs game by a single point against the Paperwork Pounders from Manitoba, resulting in their elimination.

Graham said the team, which has been to the championships four or five times in the past, has never played so well.

“We had tight games all the way. This is the farthest we’ve made it,” he said.

Slo-Pitch Nationals include tournaments in Langley, B.C., Saskatoon, Sask., Winnipeg and Moncton, N.B.

The organizer for Winnipeg’s tournament, Barry Black, described the tournament as a “huge success” and lauded the efforts of the Juggernauts on the field.

“We had teams represented from eight different provinces and we felt these nationals were a true national championship,” he said.

“I was extremely excited to learn (the teams from Rankin) were attending and was very proud of their performance.”

For Graham, meeting players from other parts of Canada was a real highlight of the event.

“It was just a great tournament,” he said.

“The hospitality from our host was awesome, the games were great and we had really professional umping.”