The Galway Hitmen made national softball history on a chilly Sunday evening in St. John’s, NL, defeating Newfoundland’s Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs 3-0 to claim a record fifth-straight Canadian men’s fastpitch championship.
The final was a repeat of the 2014 gold medal game in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and for much of the gold medal game, it looked as though it would be a repeat of the team’s elimination round meeting, an 11-inning affair that ended in a 1-0 Hitmen victory courtesy a walk-off RBI-single. But in this contest, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth Sunday, Stephen Mullaley belted a base-clearing double to give the defending champs a 3-0 lead.
Championship round MVP Sean Cleary took the mound in the top of the seventh and shut down the Bulldogs offence to clinch the title. “I was struggling early in the tournament and getting frustrated, but I had a lot of support with the guys around me saying ‘stick with it.’ I was confident that eventually it would happen and I was very fortunate to have it happen in some key situations throughout the week and weekend,” said Mullaley, who hit what would be grand slam home run that led to a victory in the team’s final qualifying round game earlier in the tournament. When St. John’s last played host to the tournament in 2007, Mullaley was part of the local Roebothan McKay Marshall squad that lost the championship game 1-0 to the Vancouver, B.C. Grey Sox.
So being able to make good this time around on home soil was especially gratifying for the first baseman. “We’ve been relishing the opportunity to get a chance to come back and really showcase what our team can do,” he said. “To have an opportunity to win five in a row, which has never been done, and to do it at home in front of a huge crowd against another Newfoundland team is an unbelievable feeling.”
Coach Mark Dwyer offered praise to the Bulldogs for challenging the Hitmen honest twice in the tournament, but said his team as a whole felt they had a destiny to fulfill. “When we started the season, everything for our team was about winning five championships. We wanted to do something no one else has ever done and we assembled a group that could do that,” he said.