First-year Braves capture OASA title - Norfolk News
When Adam Walker and Shawna Cloet bantered around the idea to bring back softball to the area, the furthest thing from their minds was winning an Ontario Amateur Softball Association championship.
Little did they know, four months later they would be in Coburg and watching the Simcoe Braves celebrate an OASA squirt C title in front of the pitcher’s mound.
“It’s incredible. It really is,” Walker said. “It’s an amazing way to finish off the season. I couldn’t be happier for these kids.”
After going undefeated for three games, the Braves capped off the tournament with a convincing 12-5 win over Campbellford.
And the ensuing celebration said it all.
“Seeing every kid celebrate was a great feeling,” Walker said. “They have all come such a long way since that first time in the gym. It was really good for the kids. Getting that taste of winning is a great thing.”
Four months earlier, the Braves were just a dream.
“One day it was just a pipe dream when we were talking,” Walker said. “We thought, what do you think? Could we put a team together? Then we started putting names together who would play. Surely we could get three more to make 10 players.”
He said the goal was to introduce softball to kids that would be interested in the sport, with hopes of maybe building something.
Up until the late 1990s, softball diamonds in Norfolk were packed with teams from every town. But like all things, the cycle ended. And when the International Softball Congress champion Jarvis Travelers decided to pack things in, it almost seemed like a death blow for the sport. That is until now, with the fledgling team.
“It was funny, that the same week we decided to do this, was the same week the (Kitchener Hallman Twins, formerly Jarvis) Tarvelers are done,” Walker said. “I kind of thought it would be really great if we can pick up where they left off. I played with Opie (Ian Fehrman) as a kid and Shawna’s cousin Greg (Cournyea) played with the Travelers, so there are those connections.”
Walker said it was an idea that was made possible by many, including sponsors the Simcoe Lions Club and South Coast Hyundai.
“When we started, we got a call from George Ryder, who asked if he could help with the pitchers,” walker said. “Then Dave Bourne, the hitting coach from the Toronto Gators called. All of the sudden, these kids were getting some of the best coaching in the province.”
From there, they began to hone their skills in the Haldimand Erie Fastball League, while gaining respect in bigger tournaments.
That’s when people started to talk about this new team from a town that used to dominate the sport.
“We’d go to a tournament and knock off some of the top teams in the province,” Walker said. “It was really special. This weekend was obviously fantastic and to win an OASA championship is amazing. But the cool part is the team that won the OASA A title, is a team we beat a couple of weeks ago. It shows we can compete with anyone. And we’ve been playing this sport for four months.”
The Braves started this past weekend against Curve Lake and came away with an 11-1 win. They then beat Laurentian Valley 8-4, before having to come from behind to beat Campbellford 6-5 in the undefeated game, vaulting them to the final.
“We were losing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh with our seven, eight, and nine batters coming up,” Walker said. “Our depth in hitting really showed. We were able to chip way and walk it off.”
Although the Braves have won Simcoe’s first OASA title since Harrington Sports intermediates and Simcoe Juniors won their respective championships in 1996, their voyage isn’t over.“The kids have some lofty goals ahead and they want to track those down,” Walker said. “They know in peewee they can qualify for the national championships. It’s something they want to work towards, so we’ll be back at it.
“Most importantly, we’re bringing something back,” he said. “It’s bigger than just our team and an Ontario championship. We have the potential of getting to and maybe winning a national championship. It’s something these kids are aiming to now.”
by Darryl Smart
Darryl Smart is a sports reporter with the Norfolk News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org