Knights Miss OFSAA Berth Despite Strong Start

Knights Miss OFSAA Berth Despite Strong Start
Posted on 06/06/2024
Slo-PitchOFSAA Slo-pitch Festival Returns with St. Mary Crusaders as Hosts

By Larry Moko

Organizers of the 2024 OFSAA Slo-pitch Festival almost added one ‘More’ team from Hamilton to the field of qualifiers.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association champion St. Mary Crusaders have already punched their ticket as the host entry. And Monday, the St. Thomas More Knights could have landed a berth, too, with a victory over Milton’s Bishop Reding Royals.

But Reding broke open the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference final with seven seventh-inning runs en route to an 11-4 victory over the Knights in Ancaster.

Action for all 16 qualifying teams takes place June 10-11 at Turner Park (diamond’s 5, 6, 7 and 8).

It’s the second-annual provincial showcase tournament for girls’ high school slo-pitch. Toronto Richview C.I. won top honours last season.

More and Reding were deadlocked 4-4 in a well-played defensive battle through six innings. And that was very similar to Reding’s 17-8 GHAC semifinal win over St. Mary.

“The same thing happened to St. Mary that happened to us,” More coach Anna Fortino said. “We held on until the seventh. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off.”

The Knights grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second inning when Maeve Labenski, Mikaylah Bertztiss, Macie Sheldrake, Hunter Burch, Jada Dufour and Dakota Bertztiss all reached base safely. The Royals then replied with two runs each in the third and fifth against pitcher Emily Dunn before their final-inning outburst.

“I thought we had a shot,” Fortino said. “Then our hits were getting caught. We couldn’t place them in the right places. We just fell apart in the last inning.”

More was coming off a 9-3 GHAC semifinal triumph over Burlington’s Hayden Huskies.

“We did really well in the Hayden game,” the Knights coach said. “Our fielding was excellent and the bats were there.

“This team (Reding) is really strong, though. They have a lot of softball players. We’ve got a lot of athletes, but I wouldn’t say we have a team of softball players.”

More captured the HWCAA championship in 2023 before being eliminated in a GHAC semifinal by Burlington’s Nelson Lords. Other players on the Knights roster include Sienna Bardy, Jen DeMedeiros, Ava Dumond, Juliana Jakubowski, Kionna McCrory, Amy Scott and Kennedy Sundvall.

“It’s nice to have OFSAA in Hamilton,” Fortino said. “We’ve been waiting for it for a long time.”

Charles Giudice, St. Mary’s veteran head coach, is one of the driving forces behind launching the showcase slo-pitch competition.

“I would always get questions about why isn’t there an OFSAA slo-pitch,” Giudice said. “When is there going to be one?

“It’s exciting. We (St. Mary) get to be the first team from our board to go to OFSAA.”

The Crusaders recently edged previously undefeated More, 9-8, for its seventh city title in the past eight years.

Each OFSAA team plays a schedule of five games.

St. Mary Catholic Secondary School will also host a banquet for the athletes on June 10.

Said Giudice: “Bishop Reding is one of the best slo-pitch teams I’ve seen.”

Photos by Bob Butrym, RFB Sport Photography

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