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District team earns split at all-Ontarios

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It was the equivalent of a grade school team thrown together at recess heading out to play against the American League East division.

Considering how it might have turned out, Chris Jack was more than happy with how things unfolded.

The captain of the Big Grassy Lightning led a collection of players from across the Rainy River District Fastball League to the 2016 All-Ontario Native Fastball Championships at Rama First Nation over the weekend, where they finished with a 2-2 record.

“The ultimate goal was to showcase our RRDFL players,” noted Jack.

“It was an excellent job done by each player.”

The Lightning travelling team featured 10 RRDFL regulars on its 11-man roster, which had to get spliced together at the last minute because regular Big Grassy players Jeff Morrison and Bill Copenace, as well as Sudbury-based pitcher Colton Pheasant, couldn’t make the trip due to work commitments.

With Morrison and Pheasant originally set to make up the team’s pitching staff, that left Jack scrounging for a top-quality arm.

He ended up finding a more-than-decent substitution.

“Darren Zack Jr. wound up joining us and pitching all four games,” grinned Jack, referring to the son of International Softball Congress Hall-of-Famer Darren Zack, who put on a pitching clinic along with his son at Big Grassy in late May.

“For a thrown-together team, I was pretty pleased,” Jack added.

Along with Jack, his son, Austin, and fellow Big Grassy regular Ryan Kirkrude, the district squad also included Tim Archie (Fort Frances Braves), Nick Hunter, Marcel Pagee, and Daymond Morrisseau (Windey’s Warriors), Sean Councillor and Don Smith (Northwest Bay Chieftains), and Kyle Copenace (Sabaskong Lakers).

The Lightning burst out of the gate with a 5-1 victory over Atikameksheng (Whitefish Lake First Nation), getting two runs in the first and three in the second.

The squad then ran into the defending champion Nawash Warriors, who romped to a 10-0 triumph.

The Lightning were in the game through three innings, trailing only 2-0.

“In the fourth, they got to us for two three-run homers,” Jack recalled.

Demoted to the losers’ side of the double-elimination tournament, the Lightning met Atikameksheng for a second time and again took care of business with an 8-2 victory.

Austin Jack and Pagee hit back-to-back solo homers to help the cause.

But the end of the line came in their next outing as the Delaware Warriors (Monroviantown) dumped the Lightning 12-4.

“They got us for 10 runs in the fourth inning and that was it,” Jack said ruefully, though he preferred to focus on the positives.

“Our defence was good and we were hitting the ball—just right at guys in the two games we lost,” he noted.

“Some of the guys, that was the farthest they have ever gone for a tournament, so that was good, too.”

Jack now is crossing his fingers that this year’s trip was a dress rehearsal for what could be a very memorable 2017 edition of the tournament, which appears to stand a good chance of being held in Fort Frances.

“I put in the bid last year,” said Jack.

“They said there should be a decision before the end of September.

“But I was hearing word was getting passed around from field to field while we were down there that there was a possibility the tournament could be coming north, and everyone who heard that said they were definitely OK with coming here for the tournament,” he added.

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