John MacNeil / Independent editor
Although they didn’t post the results they wanted at the provincial intermediate B women’s fastball championship, the Stettler Heat showed up in style.
The Heat received their new jerseys just in time for the mid-July provincials in Blackfalds, so they at least looked the part of champions.
“We sure did,” quipped Stettler co-manager and player Jennifer McMillan.
The Heat lost their four games, but they were in contention in each of them.
“We were so close every game,” McMillan said. “We pretty much had one bad inning in each game, and that cost us, but they were otherwise close games.”
The Heat got together last Thursday night to thank their jersey sponsor, Otherside Restaurant and Lounge, and present a Heat jersey that will hang in the restaurant. McMillan and coach Pat Graham made the presentation to Otherside cook George Xanthoudakis, who accepted the memento on behalf of the Xanthoudakis family.
In the regular season, Stettler played in the Red Deer Ladies Fastball Association and finished sixth in the eight-team league with a 6-13-1 won-lost-tied record.
“It’s a really good league,” said McMillan, whose co-manager is teammate Sarah Tucker. “We had a pretty good season.”
The Heat weren’t among the four teams that qualified for the league playoffs, but they had what McMillan described as “a huge highlight” when they beat the first-place Red Deer Ice 10-3 in a game abbreviated to five innings because of the mercy rule.
Stettler and Lacombe join Red Deer-based teams in an established circuit that features athletic women who thrive on competition.
“We do have a competitive edge,” said the 26-yearold McMillan, who is in her eighth year with the Heat.
“That’s why we play fastball, because there’s a lot of younger, good ball players that are playing slo-pitch … it takes away (players). That’s why there’s not very much midget (ball) and very many fastball teams for women.”
Stettler’s fastball lineup spans generations, with players in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
“It’s a good mixture,” said McMillan, who has played with some of her current teammates since their bantam and midget days.
“We have a lot of new, young players this year, but we also have a core group of us that have been playing together for a long time. Of course, there’s different generations of players.”
The Heat began this past season with 18 players and finished with 16, but at times it was a struggle just to field a full complement.
“The odd game, you’d be down to nine or 10 players, but mostly we had more,” McMillan said.
“It’s hard, with working and moms and that kind of thing, but we just have a lot of fun. That’s basically why we do it.”
For the same reason, the Heat are already talking about next summer.
Team and league meetings planned for February and March will determine the makeup of the league for the 2012 season.
The schedule begins in the first week of May, weather pending, and runs through July.
“It’s a huge commitment,” McMillan said.
“It’s usually two nights a week … every Tuesday and Thursday.”
Stettler plays its home games on Thursday nights at the West Sports Park.