Bytown Belles Win Silver at PWSA Provincial Championships
The Belles faced a tough draw in pool play which included two very strong, young teams in the Brantford Bobcats and Brampton Blazers. Going into the tournament, the Belles had not defeated either of these teams.
The Belles lineup features many local talents, including Jean Cardona and Elissa Sivel originally of Pembroke, and Erin Durant, Hayley Bennett, Stephanie Bouchey, and coach Scott Searle of Ottawa.
Bytown also has a strong UOttawa Gee Gees softball presence, with team alumni Sivel, Durant, Cardona and Brye Corkum, as well as the entire current Gee Gees coaching staff of Sivel, Durant, Cardona, Bouchey and Searle.
The Belles started the tournament strong on Friday night, stunning the Bobcats with a 7-3 win. All three Belles pitchers - Jean Cardona, Elissa Sivel and Allie Hipgrave - were used to control the powerful Bobcats lineup.
In the second game of the tournament, the Belles faced the Blazers and pulled out a 2-1 win, again thanks to great pitching from the pitching staff and timely hitting. Alika Kingsbury hit a triple in the 6th inning, and then scored the winning run on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt by Durant.
With a 2-0 record the Belles faced the Kars Aces on Saturday night. Veteran pitcher Maysha Townsend pitched a great game for Kars and held the score to 2-2 into the bottom of the 7th inning. Kingsbury would then again hit a long triple and be scored by pinch hitter Amy Oliver to win the game 3-2 and remain undefeated.
Bytown then played their last round robin game Sunday morning against Milverton, which they would win 9-3 to finish the round robin undefeated and earn the top seed in their pool.
Shortly after the end of pool play, the Belles played their quarter-final game against the Milton Bats. A loss in this game would have eliminated the Belles from the tournament despite their being undefeated in the round robin. Sivel got the start on the mound, followed by Cardona pitching in relief and shutting down the Milton offence from the 3rd inning on. Sivel and Cardona both pitched a fantastic game, with Cardona recording numerous strikeouts, to lead Bytown to a 7-1 win.
The Belles then faced the Toronto Fastpitch Club in the semi-finals. Hipgrave was dominating on the mound, leading the Belles to a 6-2 victory. Elderly outfielder Erin Durant was forced to make two diving catches in right field despite her better judgment and to the disappointment of the Toronto club.
In the gold medal game, the Belles would face the powerhouse Whitby Eagles, the defending champions and the 2016 Canadian National Championships silver medalists. The Eagles had won all of their previous games in dominating fashion and had Team Canada program pitcher Jenna Caira on the mound.
The Belles countered with Sivel, who held her own against the Eagles. The Eagles would eventually score three runs in one inning. Cardona came in to finish the game for the Belles, holding the Eagles scoreless.
Bytown had several hits and base runners but were unable to score. Bennett had two hits, including a double, to finish off a great tournament. The Belles would lose 3-0 after 7 innings.
The Belles will be competing in the Canadian Women's National Championships as the second seed from Ontario, along with the Eagles as Ontario 1 and the Port Perry Angels as Ontario 3. The Brampton Blazers will be competing in the tournament as the host team.
Cardona earned individual success at the provincials and was named the top pitcher of the tournament, with a 0.09 ERA and giving up just 2 earned runs over 22 innings pitched.