Beef’s Warriors leading the pack

Lucas Punkari

They came together to honour their friend, and at the midway part of the Rainy River District Fastball League season, the members of Beef’s Warriors have done exactly that.
Holding onto top spot in the 10-team loop with an 8-1 mark going into last night’s action, the first-year team has done a fantastic job of paying tribute to the late Clayton “Beef” Windigo, who drowned in a swimming accident last summer.
“He was an awesome ball player, and a really great guy,” Beef’s Warriors catcher Kevin Gemmell said.
“A couple of us were talking over the winter and decided that we would start a team in honour of him, and everything really started to come together from there,” Gemmell added.
Featuring a roster of newcomers and players who came from other teams in the RRDFL, Beef’s Warriors, who play their games at Couchiching, have been able to gel rather quickly to become one of the top squads in the circuit.
“We have a lot of great players such as Mike Wilson, Rob McGinnis, and Sheldon Kelly,” Gemmell noted.
“Everyone gets along with each other for the most part, and that’s probably what makes us all click.
“We definitely have a solid team, and there’s a lot of effort being put forth by lots of guys,” he added.
After suffering a 3-1 loss to the Big Grassy Braves back on May 19, Beef’s Warriors have been unstoppable since then, winning their last seven games to roar into first place.
“That game against the Braves is one that stands out as a real turning point for us,” Gemmell remarked.
“After that game, we really have had everyone come together to not only compete out there, but also do the little things right.
“There’s a lot more to the game than just hitting the ball and getting a few strikeouts,” he stressed.
Gemmell also feels his team learned a valuable lesson in their most recent game last Thursday—a tight 5-3 victory over the Rainy River Royals.
“[Murray] Armstrong pitched really well in that game, and they were able to just hang around and get the tying run up to the plate at the end,” he recalled.
“That could have ended up being really bad for us, but we know now that we just have to keep the gas pedal down all of the time to keep the other teams from catching us from behind.”
Despite their grip on top spot at the moment, Gemmell feels the RRFDL this year is as tight as it has ever been, with seven of the 10 teams currently sporting records of .500 or better.
“There are not too many cakewalks when you go to a game,” he noted.
“Sight & Sound, Rainy River, Stratton, Barwick, and the Big Grassy teams are always up there, and there are certainly a number of teams that can compete.
“There is a lot of great talent in this league, and a real passion for fastball in the district, which is really awesome to see,” Gemmell enthused.
In the only other game last Thursday, which was scheduled as a night to make up postponed games, Kurtis Wepruk blasted a grand slam to help the defending champion Sight & Sound Wolves romp to a 16-8 victory over Stratton.
The Wolves (5-3-1) were coming off an 11-11 tie last Tuesday against the Big Island Huskies (1-7-1) in a game that was called due to darkness.
Also last Tuesday, Beef’s Warriors won 8-2 over the Big Grassy Lightning (6-3) while Jesse Tom belted three homers as the Big Grassy Braves (6-3) cruised to a 21-1 shellacking of Manitou (3-6).
Rainy River (4-5) earned a 7-0 shutout over Barwick (7-3) while Stratton (5-4) won 9-7 against winless Northwest Bay (0-9).
The second half of the season began this past Monday evening as the Big Grassy Braves edged Rainy River 5-4.
In games scheduled for last night (weather permitting), Stratton faced Big Island, the Lightning met Rainy River, Sight & Sound battled Manitou, Northwest Bay clashed with Barwick, and Beef’s Warriors went up against the Braves.
League action resumes again tomorrow night with Rainy River facing Stratton, Barwick meeting Sight & Sound, and Manitou taking on Beef’s Warriors.
The Braves go up against Northwest Bay while Big Island will try to zap the Lightning.