UNITY — Unity played host to eight teams, including the hometown Cardinals, in the 11U AA Tier 2C provincial championships July 15, 16 and 17. The Cardinals started off strong with a 12-1 win over the Saskatoon Brave Bandits July 15, but two subsequent losses – each by only one run – July 16 kept them out of playoff Sunday.
Coach Graeme Gieni said “Our boys played their hearts out” but losing 4-3 to Meadow Lake meant they were in a must-win situation against Maidstone. In that game, “We started off strong … getting lots of runners on base,” said Gieni, “but weren’t able to capitalize on those opportunities leaving the bases loaded” in the first two innings.
Down 6-1 in the fourth, the Cardinals came back to tie the game at 6-all. Maidstone pulled ahead again, 8-6. Gieni said, “In our last bat we were able to pull back within one but couldn’t score a couple (of) base runners before we ran out of outs and fell short 8-7.”
These may have been young boys playing baseball games, but the difference in a number of games came down to only one run. The Maidstone Lakers ultimately went undefeated in their five games and won the gold medals. Three of their games, including the final against the Muenster Red Sox and that round robin game against Unity, were one-run victories.
Gieni summed up, saying, “The boys played amazing all weekend and showed that they could hang with the top two teams in their tier since Maidstone and Meadow Lake met in the final ... It’s exciting to know that these kids will continue to grow and play with one another in the years to come and hopefully in the near future be able to win one of these championships.”
The Esterhazy Cyclones and Muenster were the other teams to make the semifinals. The Saskatoon Brave Bandits, the Yorkton Cardinals and the Sask Five Giant Bombers, along with the Cardinals, saw their tournaments end in the round robin.
Unity’s roster was comprised of Liam Close, Madden Duncan, Van Gieni, Ryden Hoffman, Reid Kiefer, Blake Lewis, Kace McCrae, Dryden O’Brian, Svar Patel, Beckett Petovello and Kody Walz. Coaching along with Gieni were Cory Hoffman, Derek Close and Shaun O’Brian.
Long-time scorekeeper Mary Anne Gaetz, who won the Baseball Sask Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 and is being inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame this year, threw the opening pitch, caught by Unity’s Ryden Hoffman. The opening ceremonies included a short address from Dan Feser, representing the Saskatchewan Baseball Association. Feser told the boys to enjoy the experience, saying it was something they would remember for the rest of their lives.
Altogether 23 out-of-town coaches and their 79 players, accompanied by parents, grandparents and siblings, came to Unity for the tournament.
Gieni praised parents and other volunteers, saying the weekend “ran really smooth. We were able to have a great volunteer group from the community and the parents all chipped in with scorekeeping, pitch counting and announcing. The diamonds were in great shape, big shoutout to the amazing grounds crew we had working on them all week and throughout the weekend.”
A number of visiting parents and grandparents commented on how nice it was to be back at the Unity ball diamonds, after the two-year hiatus. One such spectator said it was their first time visiting Unity and they were very impressed. Besides hotels and restaurants, Rise + Grind, the ice cream store and Ma and Me Bakery were specifically mentioned as places the guests had checked out during their visit to Unity.