North Delta softball coach Andrea Perez-Leon knew she wanted her team of girls to play in this year’s Canada Cup as a showcase select team.
“There’s nothing like this tournament in the Lower Mainland at all,” she said.
Perez-Leon has volunteered for the softball championship “for as long as I can remember,” and she wanted her North Delta Sunfire team to get everything out of it that she has over the years.
There was only one problem: the team was too small.
Luckily, a solution came out of an administrative change that had happened at the beginning of the year. Instead of having three softball associations, Delta now only has one. The Delta Fastpitch Association amalgamated Delta Heat (the A-level rep teams), the North Delta Softball Association and the South Delta Softball Association.
New teams created in the Delta Fastpitch Association wear the blue and orange colours of Inferno — the new team name. Current teams, like Perez-Leon’s U16 team, continued to wear their North or South Delta colours and names.
But for one weekend only, Perez-Leon’s Sunfires and Lance Claybo’s South Delta Invaders joined forces to become the first U16 Delta Inferno team.
“It is really a brand new team for this weekend that we’re putting together,” Perez-Leon said. “We figured why not call it Inferno and get the new name out there.”
The Inferno team is made up of four Sunfire players and eight Invaders. The two teams compete against each other during the regular season, which ended the weekend before the Canada Cup tournament, and separately have competed against the other teams in the Canada Cup tournament.
Perez-Leon thinks that having them merged will give the Inferno team an edge.
“All of these teams that are in this [tournament] … know Sunfire well, know the Invaders well. But nobody’s really even heard of Inferno,” she said.
“So I’m kind of excited to surprise a few coaches out there with this random team, these random kids and coaches coming together.”
The Inferno made their debut on Friday, July 7 at 8 a.m. Clad in the official baby blue jerseys with white pants and orange socks, the team stepped out onto the sun-drenched diamond.
The girls had only had one practice together before the game, and some of the players felt the nerves of joining forces with a new group.
“I think it’s hard to form together, since we haven’t been playing together all season,” said South Delta’s Shaelyn Claybo. “But I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it, and it’s working.”
They were. Stealing bases and snagging runs, the Inferno pulled off a 5-1 win in their first game.
“Winning’s always great,” said North Delta’s Laini Glover. “First game, it’s good to start it off on a good note.”
Lance Claybo, South Delta Invaders coach, agreed.
“Quite a few of these girls are new to me, so it’s a good experience,” he said.
“I think we’re going to do fine,” he added. “I expect high expectations. We’re hoping to go through the gold round.”
The team, still new to the coaches and to each other, managed to win all three of their Friday games, but they lost twice on Saturday — once to the Abbotsford Outlaws by one run, and once to the Langley Extreme by a whopping eight runs.
They stole a win against Abbotsford on Sunday, but lost the final game against the Poco Ravens 5-6.
“There were a lot of close games, but it was nice to see players from all of the teams involved and contributing,” Perez-Leon said. “There were Sunfire kids that had an important role, there were Invader kids that had important roles.”
Overall, the team finished in the top four. Not bad for the first outing of Delta’s merged U16 program.
“It’s kind of like our coming out party I guess,” Claybo said. “It’s kind of neat for us to get to introduce them to the world.”
For Perez-Leon, it was both a coming out party and a going away party. She’ll be moving to Toronto in August, leaving the Delta teams she spent so many years working with.
“I think it was a great way to go out,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to leave the mark for the association and hope that they can continue great things going forward.
“I’m just glad that this is heading in a good direction and I hope it can continue.”