A Westman Storm softball team laden with Virden-area talent hit its way to the U15 AA provincial championship.
The regional squad included Virden area players Shae Paton, Kaiya Walton, Callie Stuart, Skylar Higginbotham and Joelle Barkley. The team’s head coach was Virden’s Cory Barkley and its staff included assistant coaches Travis Paton and Dustin Higginbotham, who also hail from Virden. The Storm beat the Central team, 9-7, in the gold medal game in Brandon on Aug. 27.
“When the team was formed in May, we thought we had a very good team that could hit and that was definitely our biggest strength this weekend,” Barkley said. “We scored six runs in the first inning of the gold medal game which was a great start, but to their credit a tough Central team battled back to make 6-5 and finally 9-7. … It was just a real solid game by our 13 kids in the batting order and a gutsy effort holding on against a tough, persistent team.”
On the mound, the Storm used a “committee” approach. They deployed six pitchers during the provincial tournament, which Barkley said he would guess that is at least two more than any other team. The games were seven-inning contests with a three-inning cap per pitcher.
In the gold medal game, Paton and Wawanesa’s Payton Smith each threw two innings with McCanna Wiesner of Killarney, throwing three. Wiesner struck out the final two batters and had two hits and four runs batted in.
During the provincial tournament, the Storm was 2-1 in the round robin and 3-0 in the playoffs. They beat the Westman Fury, 14-3 in the semifinals. The Storm’s lone loss of the weekend was 13-12 to the Brandon Heat. After giving up six runs in the first inning, Barkley said the team fought back in that game, which he noted “kind of set the tone for how we played the rest of the way.”
In addition to the Virden area players, the Storm included: Kennedy Birch of Boissevain, McCanna Wiesner of Killarney, Addison Crepeele from Deloraine, Anna Yeomans from Medora, Callee Despiegelaere from Shilo and Payton Smith, Emma Brown, Emery Kozak from Wawanesa. Fellow Wawanesa resident Mackenzie Wanless was an assistant coach. Of his team, Barkley said:
“They are an immensely talented group with several of them certainly capable of playing AAA ball in this region. It was a regional team but several of the girls won this championship as U13s together last year as well, so they were familiar with one another for the most part and it showed. I think I’ll just always remember them as a fun loving, hard-working, eager to smile and learn, talented group of kids that started out the season a little rough but just got better and better as they went along. They were very deserving of the medal.”
In the U13 provincials, also in Brandon, the U13 Westman Fury fell to the Brandon-based Westman Heat, 8-5, in the finals. The Fury included Ella Clarke from Virden and Kimberley Malcolm of Elkhorn.
“The commitment and determination of the girls is what helped us be successful,” Fury head coach Greg Facey said. “They all worked hard in practices and games and had lots of fun every time they were together. By keeping it fun they seemed to gel together quickly.”