The Kelowna Fusion women’s slo-pitch team arrived on the final day of competition at the 2013 SPN Slo-Pitch National Championships this past Monday in Kelowna with their backs firmly against the wall.
The night before the team had lost its first game of the Ladies B Canadian Champinships and was heading into a semi-final game against rival Kelowna team iCandy. Awaiting the winner of the semi-final was top rated and undefeated Vancouver club All Fired Up, a team that either Kelowna club would have to be beat twice in the final to emerge victorious.
On top of that, Fusion would enter the day with its regular pitcher out of the tournament after being injured the day before. So when Ali Furgala stepped to the mound on Monday, there was a lot riding on her performance. An infielder and part time pitcher, Furgala was thrown into the fire in what would be three straight do-or-die performances that would earn Fusion the title of Canadian champions.
First the team would outlast iCandy to advance to the final where Furgala would earn the win in two straight victories over All Fired Up, edging the Vancouver club 7-4 in game one of the final before blasting them 9-3 to win it all.
“We were expecting to have our full-time pitcher in there,” said Furgala, a day after the championship win. “She’s pitched almost every single game for us. For her to get injured and go to a part-time pitcher was tough. But everyone was still in the game and still supportive. I don’t have the pitches she has. I just threw strikes and was confident in everyone behind me, knowing that if they hit it the girls behind me were going to get it.”
Vancouver’s All Fired Up began the final with the momentum, having beaten Fusion the day before to advance to the championship. Game one was a tight game that saw Fusion earn the win late in the game. A quick 10 minute break and the teams were back on the field, but a supportive home crowd watched as the Fusion surged ahead and convincingly beat All Fired Up 9-3, the teams third consecutive win on Monday.
“There were so many supporters and fans that stayed there for all three of our games on Monday,” said Furgala. “They stayed and cheered us on. There were girls from our ball team from a few years ago that stayed all day and cheered and gave us support. It helped so much.”
Kelowna hosted the SPN Nationals at the women’s B, C and D levels as well as the men’s C and D levels, with games running all weekend at the Mission Sportsfrields as well as the McCulloch ball diamonds. The Kelowna Adult Softball Association played host to the 64 teams in total and helped organize the event, including preparing fields and organizing the many volunteers needed. Furgala said it was an excellent event.
“It was very competitive and a very well run tournament,” she said. “There was nothing they could have done different.”
Sponsored by Papito’s Pizza and West Coast Authentic, the Kelowna Fusion earned the right to play at the nationals by winning the provincial championships last year. It was the team’s first national championship. Outfielder Tanya Hall was selected by Fusion’s coaches as the MVP of the tournament.
Furgala says it’s still hard to believe the team pulled off the come-from-behind win but it shows what a team effort can accomplish.
“We’re still texting back and forth saying can you imagine we are Canadian champions,” said Furgala. “These girls on this team are an amazing bunch of women.”
Kelowna’s Better Than Nature ladies team also competed in the event, taking part in the C tournament.