By Kristian Pälviä
The Skövde Saints fastpitch program had a very successful year in 2018. First, they won the Swedish Softball Championship – and the week after the juniors followed that up with also securing the Swedish Junior Championship.
What a way to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the club!
Saints wins their 9th Championship…
After edging out Enköping for the top spot in the Softball National League, Skövde Saints gained home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the semifinals, they discarded Söder (10-0, 13-3) and in the finals they were to meet Enköping. Enköping had extracted revenge on Leksand for last years loss in the finals by beating them 11-0 and 14-4 in the semifinals.
The first game was a thriller, and a pitching duel between Lindsey Cassidy of Enköping and Mariah Valencia of Skövde Saints. They combined for 23 strikeouts in the game, with the difference being an inside-the-park homerun by Danielle Dockx and a RBI double by Lina Larsson which gave Skövde the win, 2-0.
In the second game, Enköping started with scoring five runs in the first inning and they clearly had momentum… until Skövde came to bat in the second inning. A whopping 15(!) runs scored as the Skövde lineup had a hit-parade going. Skövde added an additional five runs in the fourth inning and the game was called after five innings with the score 19-5 in favour of the Skövde Saints.
Lina Larsson went 3 for 5 with six rbi’s in the game and Vanessa Karadag earned the win in relief.
Back to Skövde for the decisive weekend, but the Saints wasted no time in securing the title. Anchored by strong defense and pitching by 16-year old Tilde Harnesk, the Saints only allowed two hits in the third game, while the offense still kicked on all cylinders. The score was 2-2 after the top of the second inning, but Skövdes bats came to life and they scored 15 runs over the next three innings, bashing out 16 hits in the process, highlighted by homeruns from the bats off Lina Larsson, Vanessa Karadag, and Ann-Sofie Molin. After Ann-Sofie Molin’s inside-the-park-grand-slam in the fifth inning, the game was called – and celebration ensued.
Lina Larsson was awarded the MVP Trophy after going 6 for 11 with 11 rbi’s in the Finals.
This was the 9th Championship for the Skövde Saints, and the first title since 2015.
…and the Juniors win their first ever Junior Championship
The week after the senior team celebrated winning the Swedish Championship, the junior softball team also popped some corks and broke out the gold hats after winning the Junior Championship, beating Enköping in the final. Saints came to the Championships with a crew of four junior players from their senior squad and five players from the youth ranks.
The Junior Championship was played in Leksand, and after the group stage, Skövde was 3-1 which gave them a place in the final vs Enköping.
The final was a close affair, with teams swapping the leads throughout the game. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Enköping had the lead, 4-3 when Tilde Harnesk hit a three-bagger to score Vanessa Karadag from third base and tie the game.
And with two outs, Jonna Wiggins sent a linedrive to left field, scoring Tilde Harnesk, ending the game with the score 5-4, and giving the Saints juniors their first Championship ever.
And for the second time in as many weeks, the gold hats, the confetti, and the corks came flying again.
This year, the Skövde Saints celebrates its 30th anniversary and this was a great way to start off the celebrations. In addition to this, the club also saw the comeback of their men’s baseball team in federation play, and also had a increase in the number of youth players.
The future looks bright between Lake Vättern and Lake Vänern in Sweden!
Photo by Magnus Hallqvist