Ponoka’s Olivia Willier fires this fastball at the Wetaskiwin batter during their U14 contest May 26. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Ponoka hosts great weekend of softball

Teams from around the province, in three divisions, came for Ponoka tournament

It was an almost perfect weekend for softball in Ponoka, the only thing that could have made it better was the local teams doing a bit better.

Ponoka Minor Ball played host to girls softball teams from around the province in three different divisions May 25 to 27 in a tournament designed to get the local teams some more action with the season getting off to a slower start this spring.

Five Ponoka clubs hit the field — two each in the Under 10 and 12 categories and the lone Under 14 team — facing off against clubs from Red Deer, Olds, Innisfail, Wetaskiwin, Beaumont and Lacombe.

For the Under 14 girls, the seven-team tournament was played as a very competitive three-game round robin with the teams with the two best records getting into the final.

Unfortunately for the locals, Ponoka wasn’t one of them as the club ended up with a win and a pair of losses. The club fell by a score of 15-12 to Wetaskiwin in the tournament opener on Saturday morning and was on the wrong side of the 11-4 against Red Deer in their last game Sunday afternoon.

Where the club found some good was late Saturday when the girls edged out Olds 11-10.

For head coach Russ Lilja, that victory showed just what the team is capable of doing on the field.

“When it came down to it, that was certainly a tough come back win for the girls. It definitely showed that we do have the talent to be competitive,” he said.

“In the other two games, if you give these kinds of teams an inch then they will take a mile.”

Lilja added that a bit later start to getting outside this year was one factor in the club getting off the mark somewhat slowly.

“We have three girls that have not played before and there certainly is some rust that’s still there with some of the others,” he noted.

“That said, I could see the games this weekend that things are coming along and the tournament was part of the process in getting the girls to work on some things. It was also a great time for them too.”

The two younger categories played in a bracket style event, with the focus mainly on fun and learning how the game is supposed to work rather than on the score and final standings.

On the U12 side, the local club coached by Tina Nielsen topped the squad from Wetaskiwin in their opener though weren’t able to follow that up, losing to Innisfail on the A-side of the draw. The team finished up the tournament with a loss to a club from Lacombe.

The other U12 team, coached by Brandi Abt, played their hearts out in losses to Lacombe, Beaumont and Wetaskiwin.

For Ponoka’s U10 squads, the results were not as important as it was to be out there and have fun. And both teams got to have fun together, as the clubs ended the weekend by playing each other in the last game Sunday afternoon.

“For us as coaches, this weekend at this level is all about having the kids learn the fundamentals of the game and to have fun doing it,” said Travis Clark, coach for one of two U10 Ponoka teams.


Chloe Smith from Ponoka is just a bit late with the tag at the plate in their U14 game versus Wetaskiwin May 26. Photos by Jordie Dwyer

Ponoka’s Chole Smith rounds second on her way to third following a teammates hit against Wetaskiwin.

Chloe Smith is able to the bat on this pitch in the U14 match up May 26 with Wetaskiwin. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Abby Lilja from Ponoka’s U14 squad gets to second safely on this stolen base attempt against Wetaskiwin May 26. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Chloe Quinn has a huge wind up for this pitch as Hailey Wianko watches and waits during the late innings against Wetaskiwin.

Olivia Willier gets so close to getting the tag onto the Wetaskiwin runner, but wasn’t close enough to record the out against Wetaskiwin in the U14 tournament May 26. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

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