By Larry Moko
The 2018 St. Mary Crusaders will be remembered as one of the best teams in the history of Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school girls’ slo-pitch.
It’s not just because they defeated the Bishop Ryan Celtics 12-2 (five-innings, mercy rule) at Alexander Park Wednesday for a fourth-consecutive league championship. And it’s only in part because of the two gold medals they won at tournaments in Dunnville and Burlington.
St. Mary’s most notable accomplishment this season happened a few weeks ago in Dorchester when it captured a AAA-division silver medal at the unofficial OFSAA slo-pitch championships. Thirty-two high school teams took part in the event, run by Slo-Pitch Ontario.
“That was the best finish a Hamilton team has had,” St. Mary coach Charles Giudice said of the OFSAA-sanctioned competition.
As a coach, Giudice has taken St. Mary and Cathedral teams to “provincials” for the past 23 years. “I was there when it originally started with just four teams,” he said. “So it’s kind of special for me.”
The Crusaders scored in every inning. Their biggest outburst came in the third when they pushed across five runs.
“Bishop Ryan played a good game,” Giudice said. “We’ve been accustomed to having six and 10-run innings this year but we didn’t have that today. We had to chip away.”
The key hits in the contest were both two-run home runs – by outfielders Sarah van den Heuvel and Taryn Millar.
St. Mary also got three doubles by pitcher Grace Lloyd, a double and a triple by shortstop Monica Daly, a double each by van den Heuvel and Vanessa Shewchyk plus two singles by outfielder Kennedy Couture.
For Bishop Ryan, outfielder Nicki Startek and second baseman Sam Marwick each stroked a pair of singles.
“We kept St. Mary to a limited amount of runs,” Bishop Ryan coach Ashley Moss said. “They had outscored us by a lot more than this before. So to lose by 10 is an achievement for us.
“Our pitcher, Samantha Preston, was on point. It was the best game she has pitched all year.”
The second-place Celtics defeated the St. Thomas More Knights, 12-11 in one HWCAA semifinal, while the Crusaders won, 12-0, over the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves in the other.
Daly, first baseman Molly Orr and Lloyd are all four-year veterans who haven’t lost a regular-season or playoff game during their high school careers. Orr’s bases-loaded dribbler down the third base line – a delayed call, originally thought to be foul – drove in the game-ending run.
“It was a bit anti-climactic,” Orr said “I remember one year our pitcher took a ball off the face and made the final out.”
According to Orr, the team’s defensive play in the outfield has been rock solid and important to the Crusaders success. “You get the runs when the ball is hit to the outfield, but our girls stop that,” she said.
Daly, who is headed to Wayne State on a softball scholarship, Millar and van den Heuvel are all Provincial League players.
“When you get one player like that in high school it makes for a great team,” Giudice said. “So to have three, is unreal.”
Other St. Mary players include Vanessa Hughes, Ava Dube, Solana Mattina, Angela Tamale, Claire van es, Jamie Hardy, Emma Weber, Grace Cameron and Chelsea Clark.