The White Rock Renegades hit a grand slam at the Softball BC awards banquet Saturday night in Richmond, with two teams and two players honoured for impressive seasons.
For the second year in a row, the Renegades senior ‘A’ team was named senior team of the year by Softball BC, while the Renegades ’95 bantam team was named minor team of the year.
Two Peninsula players were also honoured, as senior ‘A’ Renegades’ second baseman Courtney O’Connor was named senior player of the year, and pitcher Sara Groenewegen, who played for the ‘95 squad, was named minor player of the year.
The senior team, coached by Wayne King, capped an impressive season with a second straight national title, going 4-2 in round-robin play at the Quebec tourney, before beating Whitby – who they’d lost to in extra-innings in the round robin – in the championship game.
The core of the senior squad, including O’Connor and national tournament playoff MVP Courtney Gill, have been playing together since 2006, and many longer.
O’Connor, also an NAIA All-American playing for the UBC Thunderbirds after leading the team with a .425 batting average and 11 home runs, was instrumental in leading the ‘Gades to a fourth straight provincial crown; she hit a walk-off two-run homerun in the gold-medal game, and batted nearly .500 throughout the tournament.
At nationals in Quebec, O’Connor hit .533 in the playoff round, and tied Gill for the RBI lead with five. She was as good in the field as she was at the plate, too – she did not make a single error at second base all tournament, teaming with shortshop Jess Hodge to form a strong double-play tandem up the middle.
Making O’Connor’s season even more impressive was that she’d been off the diamond 10 months, after undergoing knee surgery 18 months ago.
At the bantam level, Groenewegen was equally impressive, helping her ’95 team to a national title in Winnipeg.
In the gold-medal game, Groenewegen earned the victory by pitching a seven-inning complete game with five strikeouts, and also hit a two-run home run and an RBI single.
“She had a very big year for us, and was instrumental for us that final weekend at nationals, both pitching at hitting,” said coach Chuck Westgard. “She was a force.”
Westgard was also pleased to see his team honoured as the province’s minor team of the year.
“We were the only minor team from B.C. to win a national title, so it’s nice for the girls to be recognized, for sure,” said Westgard, a four-time national title-winning coach with the old Renegades ’91 team.
“That ’91 team ever only won (team of the year) once, so this is really nice, as we move forward to the U18 (midget) division next season.”