A pair of White Rock Renegades teams with eyes on a national title travelled all the way across the country last week only to end up playing each other.
On Sunday afternoon in Charlottetown, PEI, the Renegades ‘98 edged their 1999-born teammates 4-3 in the final game of 2016 Women’s Canadian Fastpitch Championship to claim the crown.
“We could’ve just played it at home – we would’ve had better weather, that’s for sure,” quipped Mark Dunlop, head coach of the Renegades ‘99, pointing out that there was a six-hour rain delay between the semifinals and finals on Sunday.
The one-two finish at fastpitch nationals has happened just once before in the White Rock Renegades’ history according to association president Greg Timm – in 1992, when the Renegades ‘75s placed first, and their younger mates were second.
To the best of Timm’s knowledge, no other association in Canada, aside from White Rock, has ever pulled off the feat.
“It’s been 24 years (since the 1992 double), so you can never take these wins for granted,” Timm said.
“It’s awfully tough to get there and even tougher to win… It’s pretty great, isn’t it?”
In a strange twist, Timm pointed out that the head coach of the 1975-born champs, Rick Sullivan, is an assistant coach with the silver-medal winning ‘98s.
“He’s been around a long time – he’s an original Renegade, along with (founder) Glenn Todd,” Timm explained.
Sullivan is also the Renegades association’s pitching coach, Timm added, and has had a significant role in shaping some of the ‘Gades’ talented pitchers through the years.
It stands to reason then, that pitching was the strong suit of both the ‘98 and ‘99 teams in PEI last week.
Katie Humhej of the champion Renegades ‘98 was named the tournament’s top pitcher, while teammate Elizabeth Murphy pitched her squad to Sunday’s win, striking out four while allowing just two earned runs in seven innings of work.
Murphy was named the playoff MVP, and finished the six-day tournament with a total win-loss record of 6-0, striking out 33 in 40 innings.
Humhej, meanwhile, had a 3-1 record overall, and struck out 22 batters in 23 innings pitched.
Dunlop heaped praise upon his pitchers – Tori Peterson, Hanna Finkelstein and Shayna Eyre – as well.
“The one thing that got us to the finals was our pitching staff,” he said.
And despite the loss, Dunlop said the disappointment was minimal, especially considering they were among the tournament’s younger teams, and will have another crack at first-place next year.
“We had a shot to win the game (on Sunday), but to be a first-year team in the final, that was pretty good. It was our goal to make it there, and we did,” he said.
“So there’s no disappointment here. It didn’t take too long for the girls to get over it – they’re pretty proud of what they accomplished.”
Members of the Renegades ‘98 – including head coach Arnie Groenewegen – were flying back from PEI on Monday and could not be reached for comment, but the victory continued the Renegades’ long run of success at the U18 level. White Rock has won seven of the last 15 under-18 national championship tournaments, Timm said.
“The most of any association,” he said.