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Mavericks slo-pitch success, both provincially and nationally
2021-11-01
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Considering this was a season that seemed unlikely to really happen, the Sudbury Mavericks women's slo-pitch team sure made the most of their final few months of the summer.

The local ladies captured both the All World Slowpitch Provincials (Silver Division) as well as the NSA Canada World Series Nationals (Ladies "D" Division) recently, albeit in reverse order given the various groups that oversee the sport in this country.

Either way, it made for a memorable campaign, one that seemed very much in jeopardy even in early May.

"Slo-pitch didn't start locally until July so we didn't get into a ladies league because of the COVID rules," noted Saskatchewan native and team organizer Courtney Fafard. With local health rules stipulating that players were initially restricted to one league only, the majority of the Mavericks opted to continue with their respective co-ed squads.

Thankfully, as things started to relax, the conversations picked up.

"We decided to put together a tournament team, try and get out to some bigger tournaments and see what happens," suggested Fafard. "We were looking for a mix of girls who are all friends and are all fun, but are also competitive."

The signs of promise were there early, the locals advancing to the finals of the Northerns in North Bay, though the championship affair would be rained out. So with just two events on their resume, the women made their way to Hamilton at the end of August.

"There can be slim pickings for women's tournaments in the north - you do have to travel south a lot," said Fafard. While there might have been limited time to build team chemistry this summer, the Mavericks could draw on plenty of personal interaction, on the diamonds, over the years.

"Three of us in the infield have always played on our seperate teams; second base, third base and shortstop," noted Fafard. "We all play shortstop against each other. We've always had kind of that rivalry against each other, knowing that we are strong players in our league, but also liking that competitiveness of playing against each other."

"For the first time, we got to come togeter and share the infield."

And once they hit the road to play, it wasn't as though this crew were encountering a whole lot of new territory.

"Almost all of us had been to nationals or provincials before, and a whole lot of us had been to multiple of them," said Fafard. They all had the individual rankings that allow folks like SPN and NSA to slot teams correctly.

As one might expect from a Division "D" team, this particular collection of talent is nothing if not diverse.

"We have an age range of 21 to 52; we're very well represented," said Fafard with a laugh. "We have a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different ages, moms and students and everything in between."

The Mavericks also have talent when it comes to hitting the diamond with their bats and gloves and balls.

Julia Jodouin played one year with the Laurentian Voyageurs men's baseball team. Fafard benefitted from a fastball background courtesy of western Canada. Coach Tony Rheault, a multi-sport athlete in his day, is the father of Dylan Rheault, who has toiled in the minor league systems of both the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Orioles.

Yep, the Mavericks know their way around the slo-pitch scene in Ontario - and it showed.

"We pretty much dominated," Fafard exclaimed, reflecting on nationals. "In game one, we were down pretty much the whole game but came back in the top of the seventh. I think that lit a fire under us. We finished 8-0."

They would take down a Quebec entry twice in the double knockout format, including in the gold medal game, earning a promotion to the Ladies "C" ranks next summer. Pretty much the same scenario played out on Thanksgiving weekend, this time in Barrie.

Understandably, it has the northern gals already talking about 2022.

"I think our core roster will stay the same," said Fafard. "With 20 and 30 year old women, you do have players that leave to have babies, and some girls who might want to come back after missing this year."

"For the most part, everyone is gung-ho to come back. Nobody is ready to retire just yet."

The 2021 Sudbury Mavericks roster featured Darcie Merrill, Jordan Shelleby, Melika Lemelin, Julia Jodouin, Alexie Legault, Anna Duke, Amy Young, Jerrika Rydall, Megan Urquhart, Chantal Rheaume, Ashley DiPietro, Chantal Seguin, Desiree McGillis, Courtney Fafard and coaches Tony Rheault, Chris Duke and Doug Doucette.

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