In any sport, it’s difficult enough to beat your opponents, let alone having to battle the elements at the same time.
The White Rock Renegades ‘04 did just that on the weekend, however, overcoming tough competition – including from within their own organization – as well as a scorching temperatures and an unforgiving schedule en route to capturing a provincial U16 girls fastpitch championship.
On Sunday at South Surrey’s Softball City, the 2004-born Renegades, playing their fourth game of the game – and third in a row without a break – defeated their older teammates, the Renegades ‘03, by a 4-1 score to capture top spot at the B.C. tournament.
The ‘04 squad played its first game Sunday at 10 a.m., and weren’t celebrating their final win until after 9:30 p.m.
“Long day,” Renegades ‘04 coach Ted Birdsall told Peace Arch News Tuesday, after taking a day to recover from what he called “such a wild night” at the ballpark.
“It was a very long day Sunday… Four games – every team was exhausted. It was extremely hot, tough (conditions), but we were just so proud of these kids for working extremely hard and gritting it out to win a provincial championship.
“It’s tough in that heat – even the fans were tired.”
Having two teams from the same organization square off in a championship game is something of a rarity, and Birdsall noted that seeing the younger team emerge victorious was even more uncommon.
“Being a first-year team, you’re not expected to medal, let alone win a provincial championship,” he said.
“But we were very, very proud of our young group – they really came together as a team and worked hard.”
The organization’s gold-silver finish at the provincial level “is good for the Renegades and good for White Rock,” he added.
Both the ‘03 and ‘04 teams now advance to U16 national championships, which are to be held in Calgary from Aug. 14-18.
Sunday’s championship tilt was the second time that day that the two White Rock teams squared off. The 2004s began the day with a 4-0 victory over another Peninsula squad, the South Surrey-White Rock Thunder to advance into the final game of the double-knockout tournament’s winner’s bracket against the ‘03 Renegades, with the victor moving directly into the championship game, and the loser being bounced into the final game of the ‘loser’s bracket.’
The older White Rock team got the better of their younger sisters, 9-2, in that early-afternoon tilt to advance, while the ’04s were then bounced into a do-or-die game against another older team, the Delta Heat ‘03. White Rock won that game, 8-6, which afforded them “a few minutes of downtime” before a rematch against the Renegades ‘03 in the final.
Looking ahead to Calgary, Birdsall will be in the rare position of attempting to win back-to-back national crowns in the same age group. Last year, he was the head coach of the Renegades ‘02, who topped the field at Canadian championships in Winnipeg.
“We had a lot of success with that team last year, but decided this year to drop back (to a younger age group) and take on this team,” Birdsall explained.
“They had a bit of a tough year last year, and this was a nice rebound for them. They just focused really hard, and we got them to work on their fundamentals and they really came together as a team.
“The girls had a really strong Canada Cup (earlier this month), and took that momentum into provincials.”
Both Renegades teams should be considered national-championship contenders, Birdsall said.
“The ’03s are a very strong team, and they’ve worked very hard to develop this year,” he said of the Gord O’Grady-coached squad.
“We’d love a B.C. clean sweep of the medals. That would be fantastic.”
B.C. under-19 fastpitch championships were also held at Softball City last weekend, running concurrently with the U16 event.
In that age group’s final game, the Delta Heat ‘01 defeated the Victoria Devils ‘01 to claim the provincial banner.
Across the Fraser River at U14 provincials – hosted by Ridge Meadows Fastpitch – the White Rock Renegades ‘05 team won silver, losing to the Fraser Valley Fusion ‘06 in the gold-medal game.