Heartbreak and home runs: Emotional end to world softball championship in Prince Albert, Sask.

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Heartbreak and home runs: Emotional end to world softball championship in Prince Albert, Sask.

Fans and players from 13 countries filled the bleachers wearing their national colours when four years of work culminated with the Junior Mens' Softball World Championship in Prince Albert on Sunday.

Team Canada joined teams from around the world including South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and Australia at the purpose-built diamond created for the international event.

The Canadians missed out on a medal, losing in a playoff match to bronze-medal winners New Zealand. Australia ultimately won the championship, defeating Japan to take home gold in the final.

Despite the crushing loss for the home team, organizers say benefits from the tournament will be long-lasting for the province and local community.

Felix Casavant, co-chair of the organizing committee, said projections put the economic benefits to the province at $10 million, including $8 million for Prince Albert across 10 days.

He said the city was an ideal fit to host because of its passion for softball.

"We've placed 13 players since 1997 on Team Canada that had played in previous worlds (championships)," said Casavant.

"So that just tells you, a little town like ours, 35,000 [people], that we could do that, that's pretty awesome."

The city has been preparing for the event for about four years, having won its bid to the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) to host the event.  

Casavant said the WBSC has been so impressed with Prince Albert's performance as a host city that it could return again in the future.

Visiting fans and players even noticed how much community support the event received, adding that the crowd was much larger than at previous championships.

"The community was involved here a lot," said Reece Nyland, who played for South Africa.

"If you go around the town you always see posters of the tournament and stuff. Last [world championship], I think the most people we had watching the game was about 50 to 100, that's about it."

Although Canada didn't finish with a medal, Ontario father Paul Hogg said watching his son Brady play for his country was a proud moment.

He said his son was a crowd-pleaser, taking the lead back from the U.S. with a home run in one of the games.

"To see him step out ... and realize you're playing with the best across Canada now, and now you're going against the world — wow, what a feeling," said Hogg.

"You hear the national anthem and the different Canadian songs, it's really patriotic. My wife has cried the whole tournament."

Ultimately, the gold medal match was played between Japan and Australia.

Courtney Jackson, whose brother played for the Australian team, was one of about 45 people who travelled from Australia to cheer on their team.

"I'm pretty nervous actually, just because Japan are very good," said Jackson.

"We've won one against them, we've lost one, so it could go either way, it's pretty nerve-wracking."

Many of the teams face a long journey home after the tournament.

Alf Robson, the assistant manager of the New Zealand team, felt it was bittersweet to win the bronze but miss out on playing the final.

But, he said the tournament is about more than just winning, adding that his players learned life lessons along the way.

"We don't want to just build great softballers, we want to build a bunch of great New Zealanders," he said.

"There's been a lot of parenting moments but also a lot of opportunity for the guys to come together and grow up and build as a team."