Beavers nab first ladies’ fastball title

Joey Payeur

Cowbells, airhorns, and spectator shouts split the chilly late-summer night air at various times.
Those sounds changed to the explosion of celebratory fireworks and the joyful cheers of new champions.
The third-ranked Northwest Bay Beavers captured their first Rainy River District Women’s Fastball League title with a 21-17 home win last night over the two-time defending champion Red Gut Babes in the second-and-deciding game of the final.
Northwest Bay needed to beat the fourth-seeded Babes twice in a row to bring home the crown—and did just that.
It started with a 12-11, eight-inning triumph in Game 1 in Red Gut on Aug. 17 before they ended the Babes’ dynasty in front of a supportive home crowd.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community,” beamed Beavers’ third baseman Connie Smith, who contributed a two-run double last night while handling the hot corner admirably despite a painful foot injury.
“We’re proud to make them proud of us.
“We wanted it so bad and they wanted it, too,” Smith added.
“We couldn’t ask for better fans or a better community.”
Winning pitcher Darcy Smith shook off Red Gut’s four-run second inning to toss a complete-game victory.
Smith’s cause was helped by a 10-run, 14-batter inning in the bottom of the second that erased a 5-1 deficit and gave the Beavers a lead they would not relinquish.
“I wouldn’t ask for any other group of ladies to have my back,” said the right-hander, who struck out three while giving up 14 hits and walking two.
“The Babes played awesome,” added Smith.
“That’s what a championship series should be all about.”
Joyce Smith, the most experienced of Northwest Bay’s batters, had the biggest night in going 3-for-3 with a trio of RBI singles.
Shae-Lynn Smith, meanwhile, reached base all six times she was up, including three hits and a game-high four RBIs.
That included a lead-off inside-the-park home run in the sixth that made it 21-15 and put a big dent in Red Gut’s momentum after the Babes had scored seven runs in the top of the frame to pull within four.
Beavers’ center-fielder Lori Smith, who belted a bases-loaded, three-run triple in the decisive second inning, was at a loss for words afterwards.
“This is the first time she’s ever been speechless!” declared Connie Smith as the two embraced while sharing a good-natured laugh.
Shortstop Trish Smith ably filled the speaking void.
“The league was so amazing this year because everyone has improved so much,” said Smith.
“It’s such good competition in the league now that it makes winning the championship an even better achievement.”
For the Babes, it was a case of what might have been as a “three-peat” that only was a win away eluded them after they had rolled through the post-season undefeated until they faced the Beavers.
“Northwest Bay is a good team with good pitching and good defence,” lauded Babes’ catcher Kayla Windigo, who led Red Gut’s attack with three hits along with Tracy Morningstar and Krystal Windego.
“We didn’t play with the energy that we had in Game 1 and that’s probably a lot to do with the fact we didn’t have home field-advantage tonight,” she noted.
“In both games, it was one bad inning that got us,” Windigo added.
“When [the Beavers] get going on offence, they really get going.”
Morningstar took the mound for Red Gut with five extra days of rest after Game 2, initially scheduled for last Wednesday, was postponed due to inclement weather.
But on a blustery night that fell much more like late October than late August, Morningstar struggled to find her command.
She struck out five but gave up 13 hits, walked 10 batters, and hit another half-dozen.
“We didn’t lose to Northwest Bay in the regular season but they’re a much different team now,” said Kayla Windigo.
“We knew every year we would have to come out and defend our title, and we hoped to play like a championship team.”
As the party continued in the Beavers’ dugout amid the encroaching darkness, thoughts of this year’s success were mingling with ambitions for next season.
“Two in a row? I sure hope so,” declared Trish Smith.
Connie Smith had the last word as she looked around in a mixture of ecstasy and disbelief.
“This is simply amazing,” she remarked.