After several close finishes, a Regina-based women's fastball team is indeed full of Pride.
The Aboriginal Memorial Incorporated (AMI) Pride captured top honors in the women's category at the Canadian Native Fastball Championships.
The national tournament, which was staged in Winnipeg and concluded on Monday, attracted a total of 55 teams. The women's category featured 18 entrants.
The Pride's previous best finish was at last year's tournament, where it placed second. The club, which has been around for nine years, had also registered a third-place finish and had placed fourth twice before.
"It's an amazing feeling to finally win it all," said Pride coach Rudy Tanner. "It's unbelievable what we went through to get to this."
The Pride competes in a Regina women's league.
"All they do is play and keep improving on their game," Tanner said of the team members.
The Pride roster at this year's nationals consisted of 15 players. Nine of these players have been with the squad for about seven years. Also, nine of the players on this year's team were from Regina. There were also three players from the Gordon First Nation and three others from North Battleford, Saskatchewan.
The club won its first four matches in Winnipeg, allowing just one run in those contests while scoring 38 runs themselves. The Pride was then doubled 8-4 by the Alberta-based Red Nation Jets. At this point both the Pride and Jets had just one loss each in the double-knockout tournament. So another game between the two was needed to decide the national champion. The Pride eked out a 5-4 victory in the deciding game.
It appeared Tanner's charges would coast to victory after taking a five-run lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. The Pride quickly managed to get two outs in the seventh inning. But the Jets then staged a rally, scoring four runs.
"It shouldn't have been that close," Tanner said. "The girls were getting just a little excited."
The contest concluded when a Jets' baserunner, who signified the potential game-tying run, was thrown out trying to steal second base.
The Pride and Jets had also met in the championship final of the 2010 nationals. The Jets registered a lopsided 17-0 triumph in that affair. Due to that setback, Tanner said beating the Jets in this year's national final was additionally significant.
"It was very special because of that," he said.
The Pride is a family affair for the Tanners. Debbie Tanner (Rudy's wife) is the team's manager. And daughter Jenna is one of the club's top performers; she pitched the final two matches of the tournament. Also, another daughter, Linsday, has played for the team in the past. But she did not compete at this year's nationals as she is pregnant.
Meanwhile, a pair of teams from British Columbia won the two men's divisions in Winnipeg.
The KDC Braves, who are from Invermere, captured the gold medal in the senior men's grouping, which attracted 25 clubs. And the B.C. Arrows emerged victorious in the men's Masters division, for players aged 40 and over. The Masters category drew 12 entrants.