The Napanee Express ploughed through the U15 Fast Pitch Canadians like a runaway train, winning all nine of their games over five days of play and bringing home the Championship trophy.
Express Head Coach Scott Thompson could not be more proud, calling the boys “as close and supportive as any team I’ve seen over the years… They’re an excellent group of kids. They have been to All-Ontario’s four times in the last six years and won all four of them…they’re extremely driven and hardworking, and now they don’t like to lose. They’ll do anything that you ask them to and they’re just very resilient and a very driven group of young guys.”
Thompson went on to explain that despite this team having such experience in the provincial Championships, this time “it was their first taste at Nationals. So it was the first time the boys had competed on a national stage, and they put in a lot of work this year and had an outstanding outcome.”
The team won the seven games of round-robin play with the help of five different pitchers, earning them a direct track to the gold medal game.
At the end of the round-robin, tournament officials chose an honorary All-Star team, with Napanee’s Dylan Kemp, Finn Barton, Brody Nielissen, and Owen Kish making the roster. As well, Kish took home top batter and MVP.
Then Dylan Kemp pitched seven innings, winning 6-5 against the host Wilmot Thunder for the championship.
Kemp’s herculean effort saw him bring home the Playoff MVP award.
The team even did some online mental health training to prepare for their big event with Gillian King and Rachel Matheson-Green from the University of Ottawa Masters of Human Kinetics Intervention and Counselling program. The Counsellors used the example of an emotional thermometer, where the height of emotion would be a readout of five and the lowest ebb of emotion would be a one, explained Thompson.
“You can’t play at a five [emotional high], but you can’t play a one [emotional low], either. So, they talked to the kids a lot about self-awareness and understanding when they are in an ideal performance state… where you are alert, but not riding an emotional roller-coaster,” he said.
With the U20 men and U15 boys both competing nationally and two more teams currently vying to become Canadian Champions — the U17 Boys’ Express and the Women’s Express — what is it that makes Napanee such a Softball powerhouse?
Thompson surmised that it has to do with the people involved: “I think we have a great group of coaches, first and foremost. A lot of parents who played are involved. We have a background in it, which is big. And we really start fundamentals and working with the kids as young as eight years old. So it’s… really like a hub of softball in Canada, in my opinion. We [start] working with them at a very young age and, by the time they get there they just seem to be… extremely driven and the parents are all on board, and it just seems to be a combination of a bunch of things.”
The U17 Boys’ Express and the Women’s Express begin tournament play today, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. To cheer them on from home, follow the Softball Canada YouTube channel.