The Western women’s softball team reclaimed their title and reigned again as champions of the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Fastpitch Association — their 10th consecutive year at number one.
Hosted by McMaster University, the Mustangs competed against the Top Eight university softball teams in Ontario and emerged victorious against their league rivals.
Right out of the gate, the Mustangs started off with a returning champion's momentum.
In the first game of the tournament, the Mustangs played the Ryerson University Rams, who tied for the top spot in the East division standings and were expected to be a resolute opponent.
Thanks to the highly coherent team effort put forward, the Mustangs sauntered away with an 11-4 victory, which put them in the winner’s bracket.
The next game provided quite a different narrative. The high-scoring nature that defined the Ryerson game, fizzled into a near deadlock against Brock University.
In round two, the Mustangs took on the Badgers in a scathing battle to unseat the then-first-ranked team. The two teams were extremely well-matched, and after suffering two close losses against the Badgers in regular season, Western was hungry for redemption.
The score was deadlocked until the third inning, when Mustangs catcher and left-handed slap hitter, Megan Moore, was up to bat.
“Brock brought in their defence…We signalled to Meg to hit away, and she hit it over the right fielder’s head for a stand-up double,” said head coach Pete Lemon. “Then, we subsequently scored her and that was the only run in the game.”
Despite very tight competition between the two, Western held onto their lead and shutout Brock 1-0.
Cruising into the semi-finals undefeated, the Mustangs kept focus and swept the Ottawa University Gee-Gees 5-1. However, the Mustangs were careful not to write off the tenacity of the Gee-Gees too quickly.
Coming into the tournament, Western was seated third in the west division and Ottawa was third in the east.
“Not too many people expected either one of us to be in the final,” said Lemon. “But that is why they make you play the games.”
After an impressive victory against the Laurier University Goldenhawks in round three of the loser bracket, the Gee-Gees were able to return to the winner’s bracket and face the Mustangs in the gold medal game.
But with the carried momentum the Mustangs had developed throughout the tournament, no one was going to stop them.
A fantastic offensive showing in the final game came from third-year player Megan Parno. Parno was awarded MVP for the championship game: she went three-for-three on the plate, hitting two triples and four runs batted in.
In the end, the Mustangs won the championship game with a generous six-run lead, leaving the final score at 7-1.
The close teamwork demonstrated by the Mustangs throughout this entire tournament set them apart amongst their competitors.
Adding to the stunning performances, Mustangs top pitcher Aimee Leduc absolutely shut down the competition. Leduc pitched two complete games and provided saves in two other games. She recorded 26 strikeouts and had an earned run average of 0.737.
In all realms and in all positions, the Mustangs excelled as a unit.
“A lot of the other teams have a lot of good individual players but we have a really strong team,” said Lemon. “It is nice when you can score from anywhere in the line-up and get the hit that you need.”
It is this tradition of remarkable teamwork that has made Western softball successful in the past.
On Oct. 11, the Mustangs will head to Budd Park in Kitchener to compete at the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association National Championships.
Hosted by Laurier University, the Mustangs will take on the top eight team's among Canadian universities and colleges combined.
Though the Mustangs will face some tough games as they go on road this weekend, the team is rightly confident in their ability to find success at the national level.