A Bruno Merchants batter ducks away from a high inside pitch during the Western Canadian men's fastpitch final on Sunday against the Lloydminster Steel Dodgers. Bruno won 5-3.

A Bruno Merchants batter ducks away from a high inside pitch during the Western Canadian men's fastpitch final on Sunday against the Lloydminster Steel Dodgers. Bruno won 5-3.

Sask sweep: Bruno, Carnduff win Western fastpitch titles

Small-town Saskatchewan stole the show at the Western Canadian Fastpitch Championships in Abbotsford.

Small-town Saskatchewan stole the show at the Western Canadian Men’s and Women’s Fastpitch Championships in Abbotsford, and Carnduff Steelers coach Allan Hubbard thinks he knows the reason why.

“What else is there to do out there?” joked Hubbard, whose women’s team hails from a farming community of 1,100 located in relative isolation in the southeast corner of the province.

“We play ball and we play hockey. Bruno (Merchants, the men’s champs), they’ve been here at Westerns many years in a row just like us. We feed off the excitement of the game.”

Both championship games, played on Sunday at Exhibition Park, were defined by tremendous pitching performances and pivotal plays at the plate.

On the men’s side, Bruno ace hurler Anthony Sparvier carried his team to victory. In the morning semifinal, the Merchants fell behind Nanaimo Wheatsheaf 3-1 in the early going, and Sparvier came on in relief and pitched five strong innings as Bruno rallied for a 6-4 win.

In the final, the Merchants faced a Lloydminster Steel Dodgers team that had beaten them twice already in the tournament – during the round robin, and in the playoff game between the top two seeds that yielded an automatic trip to the final.

Sparvier stymied the Dodgers through five innings as his team built a 3-0 lead, but Lloydminster finally broke through in the sixth, loading the bases with one out. Bryn Redhead dribbled a single through the right side of the infield to drive in two runs, and Evan Taylor followed with a sacrifice fly to knot the score.

But in the top of the seventh, Bruno mounted an offensive rally of its own. With two runners on base, Jordie Gagnon put the ball in play with a grounder, and Justin Dauvin tried to score from third. The throw to home was on time, but Lloydminster’s catcher couldn’t hang on, and Dauvin made extra sure of that by running him over in a huge collision.

The Merchants added one more run on a sacrifice fly, and Sparvier finished off the Dodgers in the bottom half of the inning to set off a celebration.

Bruno, a town of about 450 people located 90 kilometres east of Saskatoon, won the Western men’s title three years in a row (2007 to ’09), but fell in the final each of the last two years.

“It was tough,” acknowledged Merchants coach Ray Bender. “We rebuilt again, brought a few new guys in, and just kept plugging away.”

Bender called his star pitcher Sparvier “a real workhorse.”

“He pitched 12 innings today,” Bender marveled. “We couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Like the Bruno men, the Carnduff women have been a fixture at Westerns in recent years. But while the Merchants were crafting a dynasty, the Steelers had gone a decade since their lone Western title back in 2002.

They celebrated that anniversary in thrilling fashion, edging the North Delta Sunfire 2-1 in the final.

Carnduff scratched out a pair of early runs, then hung on behind a dominant performance from pitcher Aimee Unchulenko, who kept North Delta off the scoreboard through six innings.

The Sunfire finally got something going in the top of the seventh, putting baserunners on second and third with two outs. The next North Delta batter sent a single into shallow centre field, scoring one run, and the second baserunner rounded third and tried to score. But Carnduff centre fielder Jana Sittler came up with a strong throw to Unchulenko, who tagged the runner out a couple strides shy of the plate.

“What an awesome throw,” Hubbard enthused. “It’s not the way you want to finish a game, but it’s exciting, for sure.

“You can’t explain the feeling you get when you do something like this. The girls are just overwhelmed. There are girls on this team who weren’t here when we won it in 2002, but now they know what it’s like to win a championship.”


The Yard Dogs men’s team, the lone Abbotsford squad on either side of the draw, missed the playoffs after posting a 2-4 record in the round robin.

The locals got off to a promising start Thursday, winning two of three games, highlighted by a clutch two-run homer by Tim Folster in the seventh inning of a 5-3 win over the Delisle (Sask.) Diamond Dogs.

But that was the last time the Yard Dogs would taste victory – they dropped their next three games, including a 6-3 defeat to Bruno on Saturday which would have gotten them into a tiebreaker for the final playoff berth.

The disappointment at Westerns aside, it was still a tremendous season for the Yard Dogs, who won the Fraser Valley Men’s Fastball League and B.C. provincial titles earlier this summer.


Tournament chair Harv Wiens said the event went “very smoothly.” He wanted to bring the Senior B Westerns to Abbotsford to give a boost to the sport locally, and he felt that goal was accomplished.

“There are a lot of old-timers who came out who hadn’t seen a lot of good, quality ball in a while,” he noted. “A lot of them stayed all day. They were pretty excited about it.”

Just Posted

Tourism Abbotsford has launched the ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign to encourage visitors to check out all Abbotsford has to offer. (Tourism Abbotsford photo)
Tourism Abbotsford launches ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign

Visitors encouraged to check out all Abbotsford has to offer this summer

A GoFundMe campaign has been started for Heather Jensen of Abbotsford, who is battling an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Online fundraiser started for Abbotsford woman fighting aggressive breast cancer

Heather Jensen is unable to work during her health battle

Temperature records were broken for June 21, 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Record-breaking heat shimmered across Fraser Valley for second day

Tuesday should be a bit cooler says forecast from Environment Canada

Emil Anderson Maintenance is mowing the shoulder along Lougheed Highway in Agassiz, asking motorists to use extra caution around slow-moving vehicles on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Graphic/Emil Anderson Maintenance)
TRAFFIC: Slow-moving mowers working on Highway 7 shoulders in Agassiz on Tuesday, Wednesday

Mowing takes place Tues., Weds. between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Artists featured in the BLM Social Justice Art Project at UFV are (clockwise from top left): Michelle Msami, Dona Park, Rain Neeposh and Faria Firoz.
Black Lives Matter art exhibit opens at UFV in Abbotsford

Show features the work of four artists and runs until Sept. 15

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

When they last met, Giants fell 3-0 to the Prince George Cougars. Both will renew their rivalry in Maple Ridge on Sept. 24. (Allen Douglas/Special to Black Press Media)
Vancouver Giants to play preseason games in Maple Ridge, Delta

Exhibition schedule will start in September

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read