Braves Continue to Build - Simcoe Reformer
Since the Simcoe Braves were formed 19 months ago their goal has been to win a national softball championship in 2018.
As they wind down the 2017 campaign those once lofty aspirations seem closer than ever.
Despite having a squad primarily of 12-year-olds, Simcoe recently entered the Ontario Amateur Softball Association peewee (under-14) elimination and provincial tournaments. The group not only established themselves as one of the very best in Ontario (finishing seventh among 29 teams) but also gave every indication they’re ready to take the national stage next August.
“It’s getting close now,” said Adam Walker, who coaches the team alongside Shawna Cloet. “We’ve been selling this dream to them for a long time and it’s pretty close to becoming a reality next year … We’re set up in a position to do it, we’ve just got to put the work in during the off-season to make sure we continue.”
Another reason for optimism surrounding the second year squad is the fact they entered their first International Softball Congress event in Saginaw, Michigan last month where they finished second. After going 2-2 in the round robin, the Braves looked to be heading home down 3-0 in the sixth inning of the semi-final vs. Westport. Instead, Zach Dumanski ripped a bases loaded, pinch hit triple to tie the game in the sixth and Simcoe went on to score seven in the seventh to earn a spot in the final.
Down 3-2 late vs. Munger, a Nolan Myers double scored Alexis VanNetten to send the contest to extras. Simcoe eventually ran out of magic and lost in the tenth, but not before taking another major step towards their ultimate vision.
“Being able to compete against some of these top teams and going through that experience of playing in the championship game in a big tournament and in the semi-finals and battling back, it’s all those little things that will help teach these kids about having character to come back and nothing’s over until it’s over,” Walker added. “Hopefully those things are going to pay off next year.”
As one of the many returning players from last year’s OASA Squirt C title winning squad, Braves catcher/infielder Mikey Walker said it was Simcoe’s hurlers that helped keep them knocking on the door of an ISC crown.
“Pitching really helped us out there,” he explained. “It was an overall team effort. It’s hard to know what the teams are going to be like, especially that Monger team because we’ve never played any team from the US.”
Having moved up from playing at the ‘C’ level last year to ‘A’ this year, said Braves catcher Aiden Cloet, shows just how far the team has come. Much of that improvement is thanks to, “Our coaching staff because they help us a lot,” he added.
The Braves – who will play Stouffville in a double header in Waterford on Pumpkinfest – have applied to host the OASA provincials next year and have also expressed interest in bringing the Softball Canada championships to the area in 2020. Those gatherings would be icing on the cake for the squad, but right now their sole objective remains the same as it was in January of 2016.
“From the time we started, our goal was always to win nationals next year,” said Mikey Walker. “And that’s not going to change.”