The Prince Albert Aces are off to a 1-1 start at the 2014 U18 Women’s Fast Pitch Canadian Championship in Saskatoon.
On Monday, the Aces kicked off the Aug. 4-10 tournament with a 6-1 triumph over the Strathmore Thunder before a heartbreaking 9-8 loss on Tuesday to the Brampton Blazers.
Down 8-2 to the Blazers in the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday, the Aces battled back to find themselves in an 8-4, bases loaded situation.
“I just kept saying, ‘one base at a time, one base at time’,” said Aces coach Bryan Rindal. “We got two runs in and we had the bases loaded up.”
With three runners on base, Carly Zultok launched a grand slam homer over the fence to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
Rindal said that Zultok’s game-tying grand slam was one of the most exciting moments of his coaching career.
“The stands erupted, the girls erupted,” he said of the scene in Saskatoon. “In all my coaching experiences, that one will be in the top three for sure. I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than a grand slam.”
According to the tournament’s rules, all extra innings begin with a runner on second base.
With the go-ahead run already in position, the Blazers were able to sneak it in to carry a 9-8 lead into the bottom of the extra frame.
As the Blazers did in the top of the inning, the Aces were able to move the runner from second to third base before a bunt attempt failed to bring in the game-tying run.
Despite the loss, Rindal said there is some silver lining in taking a very strong Brampton team to extra innings.
“I think we sent a message that we’re here and aren’t going to go away,” he said. “We are going to come out and play hard.”
A total of 22 teams from across the country are in Saskatoon competing for a national title.
Each team will play four games before the field is narrowed down to 16 squads, who will be placed in four pools of four teams.
After the field of 16 teams play through a round-robin of their pool, the top two teams from each division will head to the championship round, which gets going on Saturday.
To wrap up preliminary play, the Aces will take on the Lloydminster Rebels at 2 p.m. on Wednesday before facing the Delta Heat at 5 p.m.
The Aces are battling injuries heading into Wednesday’s action.
Before the tournament in Saskatoon even got going, the Aces lost a player who was injured while participating in the 2014 Canadian Native Fastball Championship over the weekend.
Adding insult to injury, the Aces 14 girl squad took another hit against the Blazers, as their starting catcher went down.
Rindal said despite being hit by the injury bug, all his girls have been doing what they can to fill the holes left by the departed players.
“They’ve stepped up and done their jobs,” he said. “They bought into the system that we’ve been working with all year. We just got to keeping doing what we do.”